Legally, you must ensure that your company provides a workplace free from discrimination and the behaviors that go along with it — harassment and retaliation. In order to make that clear to everyone who works in the company, including employees, managers and supervisors, you need a policy outlining prohibited behaviors, the complaint process and more.
Employees need to know that they can come to work without worrying that they will endure negative actions and behaviors because of their race, gender, religion or any other protected factor. No one should feel oppressed, exploited or intimidated. You may also want to address personal, romantic relationships between your employees since that could get tricky, too.
What a good policy addresses
Not only does your company want to discourage discrimination of any kind, but it also needs to define the behaviors that constitute harassment, such as the following:
- Unwelcome or offensive comments regarding a person’s:
- National origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Other protected classes
- Nonverbal behaviors against the same groups that includes the distribution, discussion or display of any graphic or written material that does any of the following:
- Shows aversion, hostility or disrespect
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature
- Requests for sexual favors
These are simply outlines of the types of behaviors that your company should highlight as being harassment due to discrimination. You will need to fill in the gaps in order to make the policy regarding prohibited behaviors as easy to understand as possible. The less room there is for misinterpretation, the better. Of course, you can’t cover every possible scenario, but you can cover as many as possible.
Other issues to address
You may want to address consensual, romantic relationships between employees as well. This could become a problem if the relationship sours. Moreover, if one of the parties is a manager or supervisor, the other party could claim that he or she entered into the relationship for the promise of a promotion or some other benefit. Such a relationship could also cause other employees to perceive that bias or favoritism exists.
On the other side of the equation, if an employee retaliates against another for a bad break-up, for refusing advances or some other behavior the supervisor or manager doesn’t like, that could cause an issue as well.
The remainder of the policy needs to address confidentiality, complaints, investigations and resolutions. A well-drafted policy not only helps your employees enjoy their workplace, but also keeps productivity up since employees who are not under any undue stress tend to work better.