Magazine article HRMagazine

Upgrade Your Anti-Harassment Policy

Magazine article HRMagazine

Upgrade Your Anti-Harassment Policy

Article excerpt

Good policies drive good cultures. Here are some recommendations to consider as you revisit your organization's anti-harassment policy.


Of course, you must cover sexual harassment, but don't forget that other kinds of harassment are equally unlawful and must be addressed in your policy, too.

Simply stated, harassment based on any protected status, including race, ethnicity and religion, is illegal.

Imagine the question you'll be asked at a deposition if your policy addresses sexual harassment but not the racial form: "Why do you think sexual harassment is worse than racial harassment?" There's no good answer.


All of us have seen policies that quote regulations published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They're technically accurate but not particularly useful or relatable to employees. The legal definition is fine for lawyers, but you'll want to use clear language to give more context and explanation in your policy, including real-life examples of unacceptable conduct. Pick scenarios that will resonate with your workforce based on your organization's culture.

Sometimes it's a struggle to figure out how much detail to provide, especially when describing lewd behavior. I get it. You don't want to use words or phrases that make employees uncomfortable with a policy that was designed to create a safe working environment for everyone.

Why not make this concern explicit in the policy? State that your intent is not to make anyone feel awkward or embarrassed but instead to make clear what is unac- ceptable so that employees can work in a harassment-free environment.

Even with this disclaimer, please be thoughtful about how you describe prohibited conduct. For example, every policy should include the phrase "hate words," but I don't recommend sharing any actual slurs in your language.


In order for harassment to violate federal law, it must be, among other things, severe or pervasive. The more severe it is, the less pervasive it need be-and vice versa.

However, you do not want to wait until conduct is unlawful before banning (or responding to) it. …

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