by Casey L . Penn
Harassment in the Workplace An Educational Session Presented by Kathy White , FACMPE , PHR
I n addressing the hot-button issue of harassment in the workplace , Kathy White , FACMPE , PHR stressed the importance of understanding the impact of any form of harassment on employees and employers . She discussed appropriate steps related to the proper investigation of allegations and complaints ; the importance of establishing accessible channels for complaints ; and the usefulness of a policy that is firmly backed , understood , and practiced by leadership . She shared the diminished value of stale , slightly written policies , and online training and instead recommended face-to-face , example-rich training attended by all levels of management .
Harassment in the workplace is illegal in any form per the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . “ It isn ’ t a new problem , even though it ’ s really moved into the limelight lately with the ‘ Me , Too ’ movement and many high-profile cases ,” said White . “ Sexual harassment is a big topic , but harassment can relate to many areas – namely , race , religion , national origin , disability , or other .
“ The fact is , more than 33 million people have been victims of some form of workplace harassment ,” summed White . “ Harassment impacts employee morale , productivity , turnover , and reputation and can often be having an impact well before it comes to light . Harassment becomes unlawful when it becomes a condition of continued employment and / or is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating , hostile , or abusive work environment .”
Kathy R . White , FACMPE , PHR
White ’ s presentation included several examples of harassment – sexual and otherwise – and findings from a 2016 EEOC Task Force Study . “ Simply having a couple of paragraphs as your policy for your practice and having initial training or sporadic training for your staff related to behavior issues and harassment in the office is no longer adequate ,” said White . “ Statistics show that over 80 % of true victims of some form of harassment in the workplace never actually talk to anyone about it . The first time you hear about it may be later when they have talked to an attorney or gone straight to the EEOC with it .”
White left listeners with useful in helping organizations improve their clinic ’ s approach to harassment in the workplace . First , organizations need to refresh their policies and training procedures . Second , they need to rethink using online-only training . “ When I do training in medical practice , I seldom see participation by the leadership . And when the leadership is not supporting the core values / mission statement , then you ’ re going to fall short of objectives ,” said White . “ Online training was found to be the least effective option . Instead , develop robust training that involves leadership , including accountability to your employees regarding the policies you have in place .”
White shared core principles for employers per the EEOC . In short , a good organization-wide approach to harassment should include :
1 ) Commitment from engaged leadership
2 ) Consistent and demonstrated accountability from management
3 ) Strong and comprehensive harassment policies
4 ) Trusted and accessible complaint procedures
5 ) Regular , interactive learning based on audience
For more on specific , ongoing , or unfolding events within your practice , White recommended that practices have and regularly consult a designated legal team . She also shared three checklists publicized by the EEOC :
Leadership and Accountability https :// www . eeoc . gov / eeoc / task _ force / harassment / checklist1 . cfm
An Anti-Harassment Policy https :// www . eeoc . gov / eeoc / task _ force / harassment / checklist2 . cfm
A Harassment Reporting System and Investigations
https :// www . eeoc . gov / eeoc / task _ force / harassment / checklist3 . cfm
Reach White at kathyw @ svmic . com .
14 • THE JOURNAL OF THE ARKANSAS MEDICAL SOCIETY VOLUME 115