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BLOG / 11.17.17 /Jack Malley

Effective Anti-Harassment Policies Must Start At The Top Of The Organization

The continuing public exposure of sexual harassment by powerful executives and celebrities has shed light on the need for effective policies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

The EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace issued an extensive report in June 2016. Among the primary findings in the report is that sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be prevalent, and that current training programs have not been effective.

The report outlines the components that effective harassment policies must contain and emphasizes three broad themes.

First, committed leadership and accountability are critical. The workplace culture cultivated by organization leaders has the greatest impact on the success or failure of any anti-harassment policy. If the organization’s leaders are not committed to the policy, it will fail. Policies will only be effective if they include accountability systems that require all employees to comply with the organization’s expectation and requirement that harassment is not tolerated.

Second, training programs must be amended to make prevention the primary goal instead of merely avoiding liability. Among the new approaches to training the report identifies is “bystander intervention training,” which gives coworkers the tools to intervene when they witness harassing behavior.

Third, organizations must realize that there are compelling business reasons for preventing harassment aside from potential damages awards issued by courts and agencies. Workplace harassment affects all workers, and its costs include decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm.