Workplace Harassment: Risk Factors Employers Need to Know
Some workplaces have a higher risk of unlawful harassment than others. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, various factors can increase the likelihood of unlawful workplace harassment. Do any of the following risk factors exist in your workplace?
Homogenous Workforce. Workplaces that historically lack diversity or that have few minorities working at specific locations or within specific groups or departments have a higher risk of unlawful harassment. A lack of diversity can leave employees in the minority feeling isolated and vulnerable to harassment from those in the majority.
Cultural and Language Differences. Employees with different cultural backgrounds may be less aware of workplace norms. Those who do not speak English may not know their rights and may be vulnerable to harassment and exploitation.
Young Workforce. Employees in their first or second jobs may be less aware of workplace norms and more susceptible to being taken advantage. Young employees may lack the experience or confidence to resist unwelcome overtures or challenge inappropriate conduct. Young employees may also be more likely to engage in unlawful harassment because they lack the maturity to understand or care about consequences.
Isolated Workplaces. Employees working alone or in physically isolated workplaces make easy targets for harassers. Incidents of unlawful harassment are rarely witnessed by others.
Decentralized Workplaces. Unlawful harassment is more likely when executive offices or HR departments are physically or organizationally separated from the rest of the workforce. On-site managers and employees may have more freedom or less accountability.
Significant Power Disparities. Low-ranking employees and employees subject to the direction of others are more vulnerable to unlawful harassment. Managers and supervisors with more power or authority may feel emboldened to exploit low-ranking employees.
If any of these factors exist, employers must take preventative measures to reduce the risk of costly unlawful harassment claims. Employers should implement and enforce a discrimination and harassment policy. Employees should also be trained to prevent, detect and address any unlawful behavior.
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