Preventing harassment as an employer

As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for your employees. This means protecting them from harassment on the basis of sex, race, age, national origin, religion and other protected statuses.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains what you can do to prevent harassment in your workplace and why it is important.

When are you liable for harassment?

As an employer, you can be legally liable for harassment that your employees suffer at the hands of co-workers, supervisors or non-employees, e.g., customers or clients. You are liable if you knew, or should have known, that the harassment was taking place and did not act in a timely manner to stop it.

However, if you offered corrective or preventive opportunities to the employee and he or she failed to take advantage of them, you may not be liable for harassment.

What can you do to prevent workplace harassment?

Make it clear to all your employees that harassment has no place in your company and that you will not tolerate it. Create a clear policy outlining what does and does not constitute harassment and what the consequences will be for anyone who commits it.

Establish a system by which employees can report harassment. Make it clear that you will take all such complaints seriously and investigate them promptly, then follow through on your promises.

It may also help to require anti-harassment training for your managers and supervisors. While it is not only people in authority who commit acts of harassment, the training can also serve to teach managers how to recognize that harassment is occurring and act to put a stop to it on your behalf.