Americans spend a lot of time at work. Some estimates point out that we average over 13 years of our life at our place of employment. While not everyone has the pleasure of commuting to their dream job each and every day, everyone deserves to work in an environment where they feel safe. With this also comes an expectation that the work environment will be free of harassment of all kinds.
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that these expectations are met. OSHA has the legal responsibility of ensuring safety at work and a healthful work environment. And harassment is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
According to the EEOC, “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.”
While we already have federal regulations in place to address harassment, many states have their own requirements that employers administer harassment prevention training at some level. For example, Illinois has upped the ante with Senate Bill 0075 which requires all employees be trained to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The Illinois law comes with monetary teeth for noncompliance stating: “For an employer with 4 or more employees: a penalty not to exceed $1,000 for a first offense; a penalty not to exceed $3,000 for a second offense; a penalty not to exceed $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense. The appropriateness of the penalty to the size of the employer charged, the good faith efforts made by the employer to comply, and the gravity of the violation shall be considered in determining the amount of the civil penalty.”
Like many things related to health, safety, and security, prevention starts with training. But, if you do not have a program already in place, where do you begin? And if you do have a program in place, is there anything you can do to make it more effective and ensure your good faith effort to comply?
These answers can be found by contacting employer support firms like Insight Worldwide. Insight provides online sexual harassment and hostile workforce prevention training solutions like the one found here. The easy to use system is designed for compliance with these new employer requirements and the laws set forth by the state of Illinois.
Remember, committing to a harassment-free work environment starts at the top. With strong support from senior leadership, your company can implement a sustainable program that keeps your company in full compliance.