Combating harassment in the workplace is now top priority for HR departments. Here's what HR teams need to effectively address this issue.

While many organizations have guidelines in place to handle harassment in the workplace, recent headline events may be a sign that businesses should review and revise their policies, ensuring they're as effective as possible. Here's a look at how to help shape policy and shift workplace culture.

Open Options

As Forbes notes, workplaces are prone to harassment because they're staffed by people — and people aren't perfect.

The nature of workplaces creates a secondary problem: Staff often feel uncomfortable reporting harassment they see or experience because of existing hierarchies and closed-door meetings. Changing this outcome means changing the initial approach — HR must create a "see something, say something" culture that drives transparency and empowers employees.

The Tech Advantage

According to VentureBeat, technology can also help HR curb harassment in the workplace. New developments in AI, for example, are able to scan online conversations to determine whether workplace interactions violate applicable employment laws. Employers who rely on AI should continue to emphasize the importance of reporting workplace harassment and involve experienced counsel to help determine how to respond to complaints.

Emerging HR Roles

Finally, the National Law Review points to a larger role for HR in combating harassment, especially since after-the-fact terminations or apologies may not absolve companies of legal responsibility. This means mandating regular and repeated employee trainings about appropriate workplace behavior and reporting. Ensure that you're compliant with all relevant regulations, as certain states impose harassment training and notification requirements.

Reporting procedures should be streamlined and well understood by all employees, providing them with multiple avenues to raise complaints. Empower HR to investigate claims from start to finish and have them set up clear processes around how investigations will be conducted, including who will conduct the investigation, how witnesses are identified and what types of questions will be asked.

It's a good idea to work with legal counsel when creating your sexual harassment policies. This will help ensure they're consistent with any applicable federal, state and local harassment laws or EEOC best practices and will help reduce complaints and protect the rights of employees to work in an environment that is free from harassment.

Using these tools, your business can start tackling harassment in the workplace head on by aligning new tools and roles with a wider culture shift.

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