The Protective Power of Policies
Smart employers make sure that they adopt and distribute policies prohibiting workplace harassment based on all impermissible bases, including national origin and disability. Smart employers also have clear language in their policies against workplace harassment allowing employees to make complaints
Time for a check up?Take a minute and look at your policy prohibiting workplace harassment. Does it talk only about sexual harassment? I hope not. Workplace harassment policies should prohibit harassment based on race (in fact, courts recognized harassment based on race before sexual harassment), disability, religion, national origin, and age. Any status protected under federal anti-discrimination laws could form the basis for a workplace harassment claim. Consequently, your policies prohibiting workplace harassment should be equally broad. Courts have also recognized the existence of retaliatory hostile environment claims in which an employee complains of harassment because of protected conduct. Well-written policies, when made available and properly enforced, can protect employers from liability.
Your search engine is not a substitute for an experienced employment attorney.It is easy enough these days to search for employment policies on nearly every topic and find samples. The problem comes when you select one without consulting with an experienced employment attorney in your area. That attorney can serve as a valuable resource and help guide decisions with respect to selecting policy language. Increasingly, state government and even municipal governments are adding to the range of sources of legal authority with which employer policies must comply. You need someone to make sure that the policy you are considering complies with such requirements and comports with the latest proclamations from federal regulatory agencies as well. Employment law has been in a state of flux. Don't get caught with outmoded language!