Protecting Employees From Harassment

May 1, 2019


An industrial warehouse worker being the target of bullying, abuse or discrimination.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, incidents of harassment were the highest in these industries:

  • Accommodation and food services: 14.23 percent
  • Retail trade: 13.44 percent
  • Manufacturing: 11.72 percent
  • Health care and social assistance: 11.48 percent

So, what can a facility manager do to protect their workers from harassment?

First, it’s helpful to define sexual harassment. According to the EEOC:

It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man and both the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are not very serious is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as the victim being fired or demoted.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Assess the situation:

Use anonymous surveys to assess your current environment. This will alert you to issues you may not know exist, but also help you to customize a training program.

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy:

Be sure to establish a workplace culture that values equal opportunity and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Adopt and implement workplace harassment and discrimination policies and practices based on proven best practices.

These policies should be easy to understand, available in the languages of your workers, and readily accessible to employees throughout the workplace.

Workers should have multiple pathways to report harassment. You should also set up a fair and prompt internal investigative process, and explain potential methods of resolving complaints.

Stress that retaliation is strictly prohibited to ensure that workers are aware of their rights and to encourage workers to report.

Invest in training:

Training is the first line of defense. Employers should train not only workers but also supervisors on what harassment is, how to prevent it and how to address it should it occur.

Ideally, training should take place in person featuring a program customized for your workplace. Training should address what type of behavior is prohibited and how workers can alert supervisors about issues that arise. Training should address how to identify risk factors and also include bystander training and unconscious bias training.

Valuable resources that can help model your policies and/or training is the NY State Sexual Harassment website: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/sexual-harassment-training.page. It includes a free 45-minute training video.

Employers want employees to feel safe, to know that the company will not tolerate harassment and understand that management will help them should the need arise.

For more information on protecting employees against harassment, contact Vanguard Resources.