When an employee feels harassed, they may begin to explore options to support them being represented by legal counsel or other means. Regardless of how many employees a company employs, employees can always hire a labor or employment attorney if they feel they are being harassed in the workplace.
While bullying is not illegal in the workplace, discrimination is illegal according to the EEOC. One form of discrimination is harassment, which is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA). Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Companies who employ as little as 15 or more employees under Title VII can be held accountable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employers can get themselves in hot water when they don’t document and address harassment in the workplace. The EEOC addresses responsibilities and holds employers liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action that results in failure to promote or hire, loss of wages or termination.
So how can a company be proactive and support respectful work environments?
First, the leader of a company, corporation or agency can create policies that support work environments where employees feel safe, rewarded for good behavior, and feel valued. A leader must have more than a zero policy for bullying or discrimination in the workplace. They must discipline or remove personnel who fail to comply with policies created by or in cooperation with the leadership.
Second, first line supervisors play a very important role in overseeing how their people get along in the workplace. When someone does cross the line and harasses another employee, it’s important that the issue is addressed immediately and documented. I have witnessed supervisors not documenting workplace violations and later regretting it because they had no proof to present to their management or their Human Resources (HR) department. If the company is larger, they may have an HR department who can give them guidance on workplace harassment issues.
HR personnel understands that it’s important to have a documentation trail of evidence if an issue of discrimination comes up in the workplace. If an employee files a harassment discrimination case with the EEOC or an attorney, a company can be tied up with investigations, depositions, filing paperwork, and the possibility of being held accountable for not complying with the EEOC’s mandates or employment laws. Fines or settlements can add up to many thousands of dollars. Lawsuits or EEOC cases can drag on for years and years.
In the end, there can be a loss of production and morale in the company. The employees and employers all lose in the end. Wasted time can never be given back. When employees don’t feel secure in their jobs, they may begin to look for another job or go work for themselves. The cost of replacing good employees can be quite high. Not only does the company have to find another employee, but they must also train them and get them up to speed in their company. In some cases, this can take months or even more than a year to get an employee trained in their company.
Companies benefit when they take care of their people. Employees trust their employers more when they know that their leadership is interested in their welfare and are proactive in creating and maintaining a bully and discrimination-free workplace. Good employees are the backbone of a company. They are a large part of a company’s success and profitability.
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