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Stopping workplace harassment requires a strong policy

Safe and respectful workplaces are the goal of every employer and are now mandated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Alberta. Everyone at work wants and needs an environment where their work is completely free from harassment. That is easy to say and understand, but much harder to actually implement.

Here are a few key tips to prevent workplace harassment at your company:

Adopt a clear stance against workplace harassment

As owner, you must adopt, together with your management team (if you have one), a clear stance against harassment. Take a no-nonsense approach and address any incidents head-on in a straight-forward way. Do not delay in addressing concerns that arise, as delays and hesitations in responding can exacerbate a situation. To obtain clarity on this issue, you may want to undergo training in harassment and have your supervisors do so as well.

Draft a clear policy

Your policy should establish that harassment is not permitted at the workplace in any form whatsoever. The responsibilities of each of the employer, managers and employees should be enunciated. There also needs to be a clear system for employees to bring up complaints. If the supervisor is the alleged harasser, then there needs to be an alternate person to report to. 

Implement the policy

It is not sufficient to just write up the policy. You must present and explain it to your employees at a meeting devoted to this issue, giving them the opportunity to ask questions. Then have your workers each sign an “Acknowledgement of Receipt” to show that they have read and understood the policy. After that, it will be up to you to ensure that all of the policy guidelines are followed and enforced.

Conduct an investigation

A good and thorough investigation will need to be conducted, with a written report produced at the end. The full extent of the investigation and report needed will depend on the severity of the situation. In the case of particularly sensitive or problematic situations, you should consult legal counsel and have them carry out the investigation.

Ensure confidentiality

Because this is such a sensitive area for all parties involved, be sure to keep all information and reports confidential. Employers can make great strides in stopping workplace harassment by putting in place a strong and effective policy that is enforced rigorously.