EEOC’s “Promising Practices” for the Federal Sector Provide Key Insights for Private-Sector Employers
In April 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a set of recommended strategies for preventing harassment in the federal sector. While the EEOC’s Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Federal Sector is intended to provide guidance for federal offices and agencies, many of its recommendations are equally applicable to private-sector employers.
What Private-Sector Employers Can (and Should) Do to Prevent Harassment in the Workplace
Some examples of the EEOC’s “Promising Practices” that apply to private employers include:
#1: Distributing an Anti-Harassment Policy Statement and Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Policy
The EEOC recommends that employers issue, distribute and prominently post an anti-harassment policy on an annual basis. This policy should be signed by the company’s chief executives, emphasize that harassment is not tolerated in any form and provide information on how employees can report harassment confidentially.
Based on the EEOC’s guidance, employers should also separately develop and distribute a comprehensive anti-harassment policy. Among other things, this anti-harassment policy should address:
- The use of company-owned devices (use of company-owned devices to send harassing communications should be strictly prohibited and subject employees to discipline);
- Anti-harassment training (all employees should be required to complete anti-harassment training as a condition of employment); and,
- Accessibility (the anti-harassment policy should be made available in accessible formats, including “digital formats that are compatible with screen reading software, large font, braille, and languages commonly used by employees”).
#2: Providing an “Easy-to-Understand” Description of Prohibited Conduct
Companies’ anti-harassment policy statements should include an “easy-to-understand” description of prohibited conduct. Among other things, these descriptions should include “practical examples of harassment that are tailored to the [company’s] specific workplace and workforce.”
#3: Providing Multiple Channels to Report Harassment
Regarding the means to report harassment, the EEOC recommends that employers establish “multiple channels” that employees can use to report inappropriate workplace conduct. Crucially, these channels should all allow employees to report harassment outside of their own supervisory chain of command.
#4: Conducting Climate and Exit Surveys
Employers should consider conducting climate and exit surveys “to gauge the prevalence of harassment, retaliation, and other unwelcome work-related conduct.” Based on the results of these surveys, employers should determine what additional steps are necessary to deter harassment in their workplaces.
#5: Documenting and Tracking Responses to Employees’ Harassment Claims
Along with conducting climate and exit surveys, private-sector employers should also document and track their efforts to respond to employees’ harassment claims. This will further assist with enabling the company to prevent similar instances going forward.
#6: Acknowledging and Rewarding Employees’ Anti-Harassment Efforts
The EEOC recommends that employers “[a]cknowledge and reward employees, supervisors, and managers for creating and maintaining a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.” It further recommends acknowledging and rewarding supervisors and managers who “tak[e] actions that prevent harassment.”
#7: Holding Live and Interactive Discussions
To gauge employees’ understanding of the company’s anti-harassment policy, facilitate compliance and allow employees to raise their concerns, employers should periodically hold “[l]ive, interactive discussions that allow attendees to participate and present questions and concerns to trainers.”
Speak with an HR Consultant at The AR Group
If you have questions about what your company can (and should) be doing to prevent harassment in the workplace, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 720-452-3300 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with an HR consultant at The AR Group.