Under many state laws, and some federal laws, certain employers are required to establish and maintain anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policies to protect their employees. Even if not specifically required by law, it is a good idea for any employer to have these policies in place.
Not only do they enable employers to make it clear to their employees that certain types of behavior are intolerable, they may also provide a defense for an employer should a lawsuit arise. However, if a written policy is in place, the employer must make sure to follow it. If you are an employer, and you don't have these policies in place, the following are sample policies that you might want to reference in drafting your own policy.
Warning: These sample policies might not fully comply with particular state requirements, so make sure that you check your own state's laws or have an attorney review your policy before you hand it out to employees.
Sample Anti-Discrimination Policy
An anti-discrimination policy could contain the following language:
The employer is an "equal opportunity employer." The employer will not discriminate and will take "affirmative action" measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, creed, color, national origin, or sex.
Note: Not all employers are required to comply with affirmative action requirements, so that language may be deleted in those situations. In addition, the last sentence can be tailored to conform to the law in your particular state. For example, if you must also comply with laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, you may include that language as well.
Sample Anti-Harassment Policy
A sample anti-harassment policy may contain language which states:
The employer is committed in all areas to providing a work environment that is free from harassment. Harassment based upon an individual's sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion or any other legally protected characteristics will not be tolerated. All employees, including supervisors and other management personnel, are expected and required to abide by this policy. No person will be adversely affected in employment with the employer as a result of bringing complaints of unlawful harassment.
Note: You may also wish to include a definition of sexual harassment in your policy. An example of a definition may be:
Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and offensive to the person or persons it is targeted toward. Examples of harassing behavior may include unwanted physical contact, foul language of an offensive sexual nature, sexual propositions, sexual jokes or remarks, obscene gestures, and displays of pornographic or sexually explicit pictures, drawings, or caricatures. Use of the employer's computer system for the purpose of viewing, displaying, or disseminating material that is sexual in nature may also constitute harassing behavior.
Sample Language for Reporting Harassment
As an employer you may wish to include provisions in your policy which detail how employees should report behavior that they feel is harassing. Here's an example of such a provision:
If an employee feels that he or she has been harassed on the basis of his or her sex, race, national origin, ethic background, or any other legally protected characteristic they should immediately report the matter to his or her supervisor. If that person is not available, or if the employee feels it would be unproductive to inform that person, the employee should immediately contact that supervisor's superior or human resources. Once the matter has been reported it will be promptly investigated and any necessary corrective action will be taken where appropriate. All complaints of unlawful harassment will be handled in as discreet and confidential a manner as is possible under the circumstances.
The procedure for reporting incidents of harassing behavior is not intended to impair, replace, or limit the right of any employee to seek a remedy under available state or federal law by immediately reporting the matter to the appropriate state or federal agency.
Sample Language on Disciplinary Measures for Harassment
A policy may also include language that sets forth how harassers will be handled. Such language may state:
Any employee engaging in improper harassing behavior will be subject to disciplinary action, including the possible termination of employment.
Note: You may wish to leave your disciplinary language open-ended, as this example is, so that you will have the ability to tailor your response to specific situations that may arise. Not every instance of harassing behavior will warrant immediate termination, but some may.
Get Legal Help with Your Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policies
Drafting the proper language in your anti-discrimination and harassment policy for your small business is crucial. You'll want the help of an experienced employment law attorney to make sure you are complying with both state and federal laws.