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2 steps Puget Sound employers can take now to prevent workplace harassment

SPONSORED — If the #MeToo movement has you worrying about your employees thinking, well, you’re not alone. Workplace discrimination and harassment aren’t just topics for awards shows and daily newscasts. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 30 percent of women have experienced unwanted sexual advances at work.

Of course, it’s not just women who fall victim to discrimination. Virtually any employee can become the target of workplace discrimination and harassment due to gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – that is, unless you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard your workplace. Here are two things you can do immediately to protect your employees and your business.

Establish policies and procedures

Following the rules isn’t always easy, but it’s downright impossible if you don’t know what those rules are. That’s why establishing formal policies and procedures is an important step in protecting your business from possible harassment or discrimination claims. If your company does not yet have an employee handbook, it’s time to create one. That’s where your anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies will live.

According to Ryan Swanson Law, these policies and procedures should be accessible to all employees at all times. In fact, employees should be required to acknowledge receipt of the handbook at the beginning of their employment and again annually or at least as new policies are put into place.

Your anti-discrimination policy should explain applicable laws, offer examples of discrimination or harassment and direct employees on what to do if they’ve been harassed or experienced discrimination in the workplace. Make sure you’re reviewing your policies every year to determine whether they need to be updated or modified.

Train your employees

Policies and procedures only go so far. Without proper training, your employees may not understand their rights or exactly what’s appropriate in your workplace. In fact, Ryan Swanson Law claims that employee training is the best tool to help you prevent discrimination and harassment. Your training program should not only explain your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and procedures, but it should also offer information on diversity, respect, anti-discrimination laws, prohibit any retaliation, and identify the steps to reporting and handling claims of discrimination or harassment.

Any employees who serve in managerial roles should receive more extensive training about their specific roles in preventing and reporting harassment and discrimination. As with the employee handbook, managers and other employees should sign a document stating they have received and understand the training. Not only will training help your employees understand what is expected and how to handle those tough situations, but showing that you have provided such training can help your defense if a harassment or discrimination suit arises as well.
Your employees are the most valuable asset in your business. Retaining and protecting that asset is up to you. For more information on preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace, visit Ryan Swanson Law.

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