Strategies For Reducing Risk of Harrassment
Bill McQueen comments on something we all need to know more about. Part 2 of 2
Last week I mentioned that I had successfully defended 3 harassment suits over my career. I credit that success to several factors: 1) the internal culture of respect and consideration I demanded 2) Following the advice Bill McQueen lays out in this article and 3) a personal philosophy that the “sun did not set until a grievance was addressed in some manner” Here Bill McQueen lays out sound advice. None of the actions I mentioned above were directed at me. You may be able to control your own behavior but you can’t control everyone’s behavior. You owe it to yourself to protect your business.
Minimizing the Potential for Harassment in your Funeral Home
In my previous blog post, we learned about the broad reach of the legal definition of harassment in the workplace. As a funeral home owner or manager, you have a responsibility to maintain a funeral home that is free of harassment. This is your legal obligation, but it also makes good business sense. If you allow harassment to flourish in your funeral home, you will pay a high price in poor employee morale, low productivity, and lawsuits. In addition to the Federal laws dealing with the various forms of harassment, many states have their own specific laws as well. Now that you realize the potential danger and how easily such a claim might arise, let’s se what you can do to prevent it.
Strategies for Preventation or Risk Reduction
There are a number of steps that you can take to reduce the risk of harassment occurring at your funeral home. Although you may not be able to take all of the steps listed below, you should take as many of them as possible.
- Adopt a clear harassment policy. In your employee handbook, you should have a policy devoted to harassment. (If you are one of the funeral homes that still does not have an employee handbook, then you really need to seek the assistance of competent legal or HR assistance). That policy should:
- define harassment (both sexual and non-sexual harassment including examples of both),
- state in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate harassment of any kind,
- state that you will discipline or fire any wrongdoers,
- set out a clear procedure for filing harassment complaints, including to whom any incidents of harassments should be reported as well as an alternate in the event the indicated individual is the alleged harasser,
- state that you will investigate fully any complaint that you receive (I am aware of several services who provide for a very minimal fee an anonymous 1-800 “hot-line” for reporting harassment or other incidents that are then investigated by an independent, credentialed third party…probably a very inexpensive insurance policy), and
- state that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about harassment.
- Train employees. At least once a year, conduct training sessions for employees. These sessions should teach employees what harassment is (again using as many examples of what could be viewed as harassment by co-workers), explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of harassment, review your complaint procedure, and encourage employees to use it. You should document this training in writing by having your employees sign a training attendance sheet acknowledging that they participated in the training and your zero tolerance policy for any form of harassment.
- Train supervisors and managers. At least once a year, you should conduct training sessions for supervisors and managers that are separate from the employee sessions. The sessions should educate the managers and supervisors about harassment and explain how to deal with complaints. Supervisors, in particular, need to realize that harassment is a “gender-neutral” offense. Though most harassment complaints are brought by women against men, funeral home supervisors and owners need to treat all complaints with the same level of attention and care irrespective of who brings forward the claim.
- Monitor your workplace. As with other areas of running a successful organization, much can be learned through “management by walking around”. The same applies with harassment prevention. Get out among your employees as often as practical. Talk to them about the work environment. Ask for their input. Look around the workplace itself. Do you see any offensive posters or notes? Talk to your supervisors and managers about what is going on. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Take all complaints seriously. If someone complains about sexual harassment, act immediately to investigate the complaint. If the complaint turns out to be valid, your response should be swift and effective. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about how to deal with the investigation yourself, don’t hesitate to call in an expert to help you.
THIS IS PART 2 OF A 2 PART SERIES. TO READ THE FIRST ARTICLE CLICK HERE: What Is Workplace Harrassment??
BILL MCQUEEN CAN BE REACHED AT HIS LAW FIRM MCQUEEN & SIDDALL