Given that harassment is a problematic and enduring issue, one of the best ways to protect your business is to create a policy that addresses the subject directly, communicate its contents to staff, and post a copy of it for your members to read. Because each club operates differently, there’s no universal policy that’s appropriate for all. However, the EEOC has published valuable guidelines you should consider as you decide on your own standards.
In general, the EEOC requires that every employer’s policy clearly state that it won’t tolerate harassment in any form. It should also make it equally clear that the employer won’t tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about harassment, or against anyone who participates in an investigation of harassment.
Specifically, the agency recommends that policies contain the following content:
- Definitions of harassment and sexual harassment: You may begin with those identified by the EEOC, but be sure to include examples of the type of conduct that you won’t allow.
- A clear statement of your commitment: Emphasize that you intend to conduct a business that’s free of discrimination and harassment, explaining that both are prohibited by state and federal law.
- An explanation of your complaint procedure: Make sure both your employees and members are able to take a complaint to more than one person. If, for instance, your policy were to say that all complaints must be addressed to an employee’s manager, and their manager was the offender, then it would be worthless.
- An explanation of the investigative procedure: It should be both prompt and confidential, and, when it comes to sexual harassment, it’s a good idea to have both a woman and a man on the investigating team. Studies have shown that the genders have different perceptions as to what constitutes harassment.
- Your guarantee of no retaliation: This rule holds regardless of the outcome of the complaint.
- Your assurance of confidentiality: It should extend to all parties and witnesses involved to the maximum extent that’s practical.
- A statement of the consequences: Your policy should clearly indicate that anyone found guilty of harassment at the conclusion of an investigation will be subject to discipline, which, when appropriate, may include discharge, or, in the case of a member, expulsion.
Once you’ve drafted your policy, be sure to review and finalize it. Depending on the size of your operation, you may want to form a working group to do so. Ideally, an attorney should conduct the final review.
The final step in the process is to implement your new policy. You need to ensure that all of your employees and members know about it and are familiar with its details. To guarantee that both groups are well informed, consider, first, what sources they generally utilize to obtain information. Some employers discuss their harassment policy in staff memos or newsletters, and some post it on a private online portal.
Another alternative is to distribute a printed copy of your policy to staff and members, and ask them to return a signed copy. Filing these signed documents provides proof that the policy was distributed, read, and understood by all parties.
The method you choose to share this important document with staff and members depends on preferences—yours and theirs. It’s a matter of style.
If you take the time to follow these simple steps, then the issue of harassment will be on your radar, and, in the event that an incident occurs, you’ll be prepared to identify it quickly and manage it effectively. It’s one of the most important ways you can protect your brand.