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How to Prevent a Hostile Work Environment

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 11, 2011 9:58 AM

One of your responsibilities as an employer is to create a harassment-free work environment.

Under federal law, employers are legally responsible if they permit a hostile work environment to persist without taking corrective action.

It's therefore necessary to monitor your employees' conduct as well as put in place a harassment policy.

Chances are that you've had an employee complain about a hostile work environment because he didn't get along with you or a co-worker. While it's a good idea to correct these situations, mere dislike and rudeness do not create a hostile work environment.

Such an environment only exists when objectively offensive conduct based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or age is so severe and pervasive that the workplace atmosphere is intimidating or oppressive.

When it comes to your attention that your place of business is hostile, you must take immediate corrective action.

To help facilitate this, it is wise to institute a workplace harassment policy and keep it visibly posted for all employees to see.

A harassment policy should list the kinds of conduct that will not be tolerated, effectively putting employees on notice. This will hopefully help prevent offensive conduct from occurring in the first place.

The policy should also include procedures for how an employee may file a complaint, as well as how you will handle the complaint once received. Be up front about how you will investigate and what punishment may result.

If you need help making sure your harassment policy complies with the law and does not expose you to legal liability, contact an employment lawyer. Their advice is indispensable.

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