Developing and implementing an effective harassment and sexual harassment policy

INFORMATION SHEET

A printable PDF version of this information sheet is available.

Developing and implementing an effective workplace policy is key in preventing harassment. Education is also important. People have to know there is a policy and what it says. The employer's position on harassment should be contained in a clear policy statement, distributed to all employees, posted on bulletin boards and provided to all managers, supervisors and new employees.

Leadership is critical to any effective harassment policy. With a well developed policy, senior management has a chance to demonstrate a proud corporate commitment to fair and equal treatment of all employees.

Managers must take a lead role in reminding staff (in newsletters, annual reports, at meetings, etc.) that harassment is against company policy and the law.

Policies that work do these things:

  • Encourage employees to come forward with complaints. How a policy sounds and is structured is important. Management has to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating all forms of harassment.
  • Ensure acceptance by all staff, unions and employee associations. This can only be developed through consultation, input and feedback. Time taken here will be more than repaid down the road.
  • Provide a clear definition of harassment, as it relates to the protected areas and grounds¬†in the Alberta Human Rights Act.
  • Include guidelines for individuals seeking advice about making a sexual or other type of harassment complaint.
  • Maintain confidentiality of complaints and protect employees from retaliation.
  • Designate a person or persons to hear complaints. These individuals should be viewed by other employees as neutral but as having the authority to act. If possible, have more than one person assigned to this important, sometimes emotionally-taxing, job.
  • Lay out the steps: Effective harassment policies provide a step-by-step description of what happens in the company when a complaint of harassment is made. To encourage prevention, also spell out the disciplinary consequences for harassing any employee.
  • Guarantee a fair and prompt reaction to anyone with a complaint of harassment.

Education and Prevention

Education is important in preventing sexual and other types of harassment. Everyone must know about the policy, and management must ensure staff at all levels are aware of the ongoing commitment to that policy. A sensitive policy also can serve to foster an understanding of the true nature of harassment and its destructive consequences. Remember: prevention is better than cure, and a policy prohibiting harassment can provide the basis for prevention.

For more information

For more information about preventing and dealing with harassment in the workplace, see these Commission information sheets:

Please note: A complaint must be made to the Alberta Human Rights Commission within one year after the alleged incident of discrimination. The one-year period starts the day after the date on which the incident occurred. For help calculating the one-year period, contact the Commission.

February 2012

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