Creating a Harassment Complaint System for Texas Employers
Aug. 23, 2017
Texas employers can be held liable for harassment that occurs in the workplace when it fails to establish a harassment complaint system or respond to reports of harassment. The employer can be held responsible for the actions of its supervisors, employees, customers, and other parties. To avoid potential liability, employers may develop harassment guidelines and an effective complaint system.
Establishment of Policies
Employers may establish policies regarding discrimination and harassment in the workplace. These harassment guidelines may be memorialized in an employee handbook or stand-alone policy. These policies may state that harassment is not permitted in the workplace. They may provide examples of harassing conduct, including making unwelcome sexual advances, telling racial jokes, insulting someone because of a disability or touching another person who does not want to be touched. These policies should indicate to whom such reports should be made, such as a human resources department representative or the employee's supervisor. There may need to be additional provisions in place in case the supervisor is the one who is being accused of harassing conduct.
The employer should have a system in place so that employees or applicants who feel that they have been harassed can lodge a complaint regarding this conduct. One particular person or team should receive every harassment complaint. Formal harassment guidelines should be in place to direct how a workplace investigation should unfold, such as how quickly an investigation should begin, who should be interviewed, what type of questions are asked, the criteria for hiring an external investigator, and how results regarding the investigation are documented. By providing a clear procedure to handle complaints, key personnel can comply with this system and show how these complaints are routinely handled. If an employee failed to avail himself or herself of this system, the employer may not be held liable.