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Steps you can take to keep discrimination and harassment at bay

Owning a business comes with a vast amount of responsibility. Some of that responsibility involves keeping your employees free from harassment and discrimination from co-workers, managers and supervisors. Doing this may not only make the work environment less stressful, but could also protect your business from claims regarding these types of behavior.

History credits Benjamin Franklin with saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." When it comes to work-related issues such as discrimination and harassment, this saying applies. Even the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises employers to take preventative measures. The question is what those measures should entail.

Helping prevent harassment and discrimination in your company

The following steps may help keep the work environment in your company friendly:

  • Create policies that comply with federal and Ohio laws that outline your company's policies against harassment and discrimination.
  • Make sure that all of your employees receive a copy of those policies and receive training in diversity and awareness.
  • Make sure that employees feel free to make complaints without fear of reprisal. Taking it one step further, if an employee feels the need to go outside the company for help with the situation, he or she needs to feel free to do so.
  • Managers and supervisors need to know to report any complaints to the party designated to receive them.
  • The task of investigating complaints should fall to another person of authority in your organization.
  • It may be necessary to take some action to prevent the potential for further adverse behavior.
  • Establish procedures regarding disciplinary actions against those who violate your company's policies on these matters. Any discipline should happen to the person accused. The victim should not feel punished for the other party's actions.
  • The discipline needs to fit the offense. Making discriminatory jokes does not require the same response as an employee who physically attacks another employee.
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding the persons involved. Exposing an alleged victim to further harassment, discrimination or retaliation only makes matters worse.

It is necessary to remember the importance of documenting everything. From company policies and procedures to logs of training sessions to anything connected to a complaint, a paper trail can help prevent accusations that your company improperly handled a situation in which discrimination, harassment or retaliation occurred.

Dotting every "i" and crossing every "t"

It may take a balancing act to protect both your company and your employees. As you create policies and procedures, conduct training and respond to any complaints, it may be beneficial to consult with an employment law attorney.

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