For employers, preventing harassment requires more than just controlling their employees. Companies can also be liable for harassment of their employees by third parties if the company fails to take prompt and effective measures to address the harassment. Employers can’t necessarily control the behavior of customers, clients, vendors, contractors, and everyone else their employees interact with in their work. But if you’re an employer, we strongly recommend that you take these steps:
- In your anti-harassment policy, prohibit harassment by co-workers, supervisors, managers, and third parties with whom the employee comes into contact.
- Ensure that your harassment policy directs employees whom to complain to if they are subjected to harassing behavior by third parties.
- Train your supervisors to notify human resources immediately if these issues come to their attention.
- If issues of third-party harassment arise, make sure that the company conducts a prompt and thorough investigation. Consider whether to have that investigation conducted internally, or by an independent third party, such as an HR consultant or employment counsel.
- If the facts developed in the investigation warrant, take prompt remedial action that is reasonable to prevent the situation from recurring.
This last step can be complicated. You can’t necessarily counsel or discipline third parties the way you can with employees. In extreme cases, companies have even had to fire clients who refuse to treat the companies’ workers appropriately. Fortunately, that’s just in extreme cases.
If you need assistance in revising your policies, training your staff, investigating allegations of harassment or how to take appropriate remedial action, contact Murray Securus HR Solutions .
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