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Training, policies and tools to help HR prevent and respond to harassment claims.
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) identifies eradicating harassment among its key priorities in
its 2013-16 Strategic Enforcement Plan and has recently increased the number of
related class actions it has initiated. If the agency perceives there to be a
hostile work environment affecting many employees, a lawsuit may follow.
No harassment prevention program is complete without manager training. Some
states, such as California and Connecticut, require such training by statute.
Others, such as New Jersey, effectively mandate it by case law.
In any case, there are at least three reasons managers should be trained on unlawful
harassment: First, with training, some inappropriate conduct will be avoided
and, therefore, fewer complaints will be filed. Second, training helps to
strengthen the manager’s defense if an employee does not complain before taking
formal action. Finally, in the absence of training, a manager has greater
exposure to punitive damages. The argument is that the failure to train equals
5 Elements of Training About Harassment
To avoid any behavior that could be construed as harassment, managers should:
Regulating Romance: Options For Co-Worker Dating Guidelines
Many harassment claims involve workplace romance, and the biggest risks occur
when employees date, or attempt to date, someone over whom they have direct,
indirect or institutional authority.
Generally, managers have three options when
it comes to dating guidelines: Dissuading such relationships in the context of
training. Imposing a notification requirement. Changing the reporting structure
for a supervisor dating his employee is one possible option. Prohibiting
individuals from dating, or attempting to date, those over whom they have
direct, indirect or institutional authority.
Such a prohibition would arguably prohibit anyone in HR from dating anyone else
in the company.
While this is the safest legal option, it may not be the most practical. In
fact, it could push workplace romances underground, eliminating any public
evidence that the relationship was “welcome.”
Regardless of which approach you take, focus on the workplace relationship and
not the personal one. There is a big difference between saying “You cannot date
someone you are supervising” and “You cannot supervise someone you are dating.”
The former statement may be seen as regulating off-duty conduct, while the
latter more appropriately restricts the supervisory-subordinate relationship.
Jonathan A. Segal is a contributing editor of HR Magazine and a partner at Duane
Morris LLP in Philadelphia.
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