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Updating your employee handbook’s sexual harassment policy

A new year means it is a good time to update your employee handbook. And, with the recent news coverage on workplace harassment, a good place to begin is by reviewing your own company’s policy on the issue.

Keep in mind that it is a good idea to review these policies on a regular basis to ensure they are up-to-date. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be releasing updated guidelines for employers on preventing workplace harassment this year. By reviewing and adhering to those guidelines, you can ensure that your policy is comprehensive and up-to-date.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to updating the sexual harassment policies in your employee handbook.

Define and discuss it

It is critical that the definition of workplace harassment in the handbook is clear and comprehensive. There shouldn’t be any guesswork on the employee’s part on what constitutes sexual harassment. An employer can strengthen the sexual harassment policy in the handbook by providing examples of workplace harassment. This section can also include a comprehensive explanation of the reporting and investigation process and clarify the company’s anti-retaliation policy.

Zero-tolerance means no second chances

Victims of workplace harassment may be hesitant to report inappropriate behavior if they believe the harasser will be given a second chance. Therefore, incidents of harassment in a company could go unreported and the behavior is likely to continue. As mentioned above, there should be a clear definition of harassment, but also an explanation of what the harassment policy is and how it will be enforced.

Implement training programs for all employees

Training workshops can teach employees how to recognize workplace harassment and the steps they can take to report inappropriate behavior. Information on the training sessions and when they will be held should be detailed in the handbook. In addition, it’s good to openly discuss and promote the company’s policy year-round. If you don’t talk about the company’s policy to your employees, it may not be as effective as you intend it to be.

The above information can be useful to any employer who is about to take a second (or a third) look at updating their compliance actions in the New Year.

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Roberts Wooten & Zimmer LLC
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