Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Proactive Prevention By Employers

Employers shouldn’t wait for race-based problems to crop up in the workplace. Instead, they should be proactive in trying to prevent any race-based harassment of employees in their workforce.

To protect employees from unlawful racial (and other) harassment, employers should adopt a strong anti-harassment policy, periodically train each employee on its contents and procedures, and vigorously follow and enforce it. The policy should contain:

• A clear explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples;

• Clear assurance that employees who make complaints or provide information related to complaints will be protected against retaliation;

• A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint;

• Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;

• A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and

• Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

If you are the victim of race-based harassment and retaliation in the workplace, look at these areas to determine where you believe your employer failed. This may be a part of the case you build against your employer, should you decide to vindicate your rights through an outside investigating agency or through a lawyer.

For example, if you file a complaint of harassment and your employer spreads the word, you could argue that your employer assisted in the creation of a hostile work environment by failing to provide you with any measure of confidentiality and allowing your harasser to learn of your actions, to escalate those actions, and to turn other employees against you.

Another example might be that your employer determines that a coworker has been harassing you, but does nothing to the employee because they are working on a major contract and are valuable to the organization. Having gotten away with harassing you, the employee continues to engage in the attacks against you. Even if they had not, the employer sent the message that it was okay to engage in illegal activity.

One of the best things you can do, if you are filing a complaint against an employer, is to have a clear understanding of company policies and procedures and to use those policies and procedures against your employer at every opportunity. It is very powerful to be able to show that your employer's written anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies amount to a paper tiger.

Written policies don’t protect an employer. If their processes are deficient and if they ignore their own policies, they may be held legally liable for any violations of Federal statutes.

Know the policies and procedures, know your rights, and show the contradictions or lack of enforcement of anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation provisions.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/race-color.html#VIA2

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