When training employees it’s important to understand what the key takeaway is intended to be. If you don’t have a clear vision, then there is no way the employees will. For the topic on workplace harassment and bullying prevention, the takeaway should be an understanding of the roles of the parties. What is expected of everyone? What should everyone know to keep a safe workplace?
Before establishing roles, we like to make sure there is also an understanding of what the concerns are — i.e., we define them in clear, certain terms. Let’s review some of that now. There are four key terms that should be established.
Avoid Legal Concerns
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is when an employer treats an employee unfairly based on a protected characteristic, which includes race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
What is harassment?
Harassment is a form of discrimination; it is unwelcome conduct that consists of words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation, physical actions or violence that is directed at an employee due to any protected characteristics. Sexual harassment is any unwanted verbal or physical advance, sexually explicit or derogatory statement, or sexually discriminatory remark that is offensive or objectionable to the recipient, or which interferes with his or her job performance. It can occur between makes and females, or between persons of the same sex.
What is Bullying?
Bullying may be a form of harassment; it refers to situations where an employee repeatedly and over a prolonged time period is exposed to harassing behavior from one or more co-workers (including supervisors and managers) and where the targeted employee is unable to defend him or herself against this systematic mistreatment.
What is Retaliation?
Retaliation is any action taken to alter an employees terms or conditions of employment (such as demotion or sudden work schedule or location change) because that individual engaged in a protective activity, which includes making a complaint about discrimination, harassment, and bullying on the employee’s behalf or that of another employee. It can be any such negative action taken by the employer against the employee, that could have the effect of discouraging a reasonable worker from making a complaint about discrimination, harassment, or bullying (this includes giving an unwarranted negative reference after the employment relationship has been terminated).
Party’s Roles in the Workplace
The Supervisor’s Role in Preventing/Responding to Complaints
Supervisors should be required to report any discrimination, harassment, or bullying that is reported to them or any that they observe, even if no one is objecting to it, the individual subjected to the unlawful conduct asks them not to report it, and/or they think the conduct is trivial.
Most importantly, they are responsible for any discrimination, harassment, or bullying that you should have known of with reasonable care an attention in the workplace for which you are responsible.
Proper procedure and/or protocol should be reviewed when responding to a complaint. Supervisors need tools in order to carry out expectations, this information would be another tool in their toolkit.
The Employee’s Role in Reporting Grievances
Employees should be encouraged to report harassment they feel subjected to so someone can take action. Behavior does not need to be a violation of law in order to be in violation of company policy. They should report (via a complaint form or verbally) any behavior they experience or knew about that is inappropriate, as described in their training, without worrying about whether it is unlawful conduct.
The Support You Need
With the right coaching and support team, these trainings and this information is within reach. We can help as an employer lawyer because we focus on protecting your business by educating and empowering your employees to be your strongest advocates and representatives. Let us be your Florida law firm of choice at HR Legal Logistics; we’ll be waiting to hear from you.