Reports of workplace sexual harassment allegations often occupy national news, with many of these allegations originating in companies based in New York. These accusations can have a detrimental effect on both employees and the businesses where they work.
In regard to employees, all workers have the right to perform their job-related duties in a safe working environment. Any sexual harassment they are forced to endure is an obvious interference with that right. In regard to employers, workplace sexual harassment and discrimination can distract from business growth and jeopardize customer loyalty.
Fortunately, thorough sexual harrassment prevention policies can help create positive working conditions for employees and protect a business from expensive, reputation-damaging claims.
Minimum standards for harassment prevention policies
The New York State Division of Human Rights and State Department of Labor have jointly created a model sexual harassment prevention policy for businesses to adopt. If a business chooses not to implement the model policy, the written harassment prohibition policy provided at its new-hire orientation and annual training must include:
- Complaint investigation and internal correctional procedures
- Examples of intolerable employee conduct
- Clear company-wide expectations prohibiting all forms of sexual harassment
- Applicable state and federal employment laws
- Statement regarding unlawful retaliatory actions
- Potential consequences of policy violations
- Harassment complaint form
Employers who don’t use the model policy must provide their policy in both English and in an employee’s primary language, if it is one of the following: Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Bengali or Italian.
The importance of recognizing employees’ rights
Maintaining positive interpersonal relations is often the most challenging part of managing a workforce. However, the implementation of clear policies can have a tremendously positive impact on company culture by, among other things, educating employees on what constitutes inappropriate conduct and educating sexual harassment victims of their available remedies and relief.