Reduce Your Harassment & Liability Risk: Put Policies in Place Today

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Look around your staff; look at your customers. You’re likely to see workers of many races, colors and religions, and as we progress into the 21st century, this diversity is likely to become even more so. In fact, forecasts say that by 2050, Caucasians will be in the minority in the United States.

And with the spate of sexual misconduct charges that have been featured in the mainstream press, no one, it seems is immune.

Your bar or club may contain employees from around the globe, but are you assuring these people are not subjected to any kind of harassment? And do you have steps in place to prevent harassment but know what to do if it is suspected?

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We offer you some simple tips to stay on top of a pressing topic.

Have a policy

Make sure you have national and state policies on discrimination in a place where your workers can easily see them, such as a lunchroom or where they clock in and clock out.

But make sure you have your own policy, too, says Michelle Lee Flores, a labor and employment attorney with Akerman law firm in Los Angeles. First off, this should explain that you do not condone harassment of any type. Detail different types of harassment such as racial, sexual or gender-based. Here you can go into specific details and give examples of what constitutes harassment.

Read this: Sexual Harassment: It’s Not If, But When

Without a written policy, “you are reckless beyond belief,” says Jon Hyman, a management-side employment lawyer at Kohrman Jackson & Krantz law firm in Cleveland, Ohio.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Show the policy to new hires and make sure they sign off on it, says Flores. Then make sure employees are reminded of this policy regularly. Remind them verbally, by text, email or whatever method suits your workforce best.

Know your own policy

Owners and managers should know the business’ policy inside out says Ann Kiernan, a New Brunswick, NJ-based lawyer and a trainer with Fair Measures, a company that teaches managers and employees the skills they need to create respectful workplaces. It’s also important to stay current with the laws because they change often, she explains. You can do this through a local business association or your local chamber of commerce.

Make it easy to report harassment

Encourage anyone who’s been subjected to harassment, or hears of harassment taking place, to report it. Provide several people they can report it to, says Flores, so they can go to whomever they feel most comfortable talking to. This also ensures that if a senior team member is doing the harassing, he or she can be reported to someone else.

Read this: 10 Ways to Improve Your Employee Handbook

It’s also a good idea to provide different methods of reporting harassment, Flores adds. An 800 number allows it to be done anonymously. Also consider email and text in case that makes it easier for employees.

Take steps immediately

Assume an employee is innocent when questioning them about harassment charges to make sure you’re not wrongly accusing them. Be sure to interview the person confidentially, and to speak to any witnesses.

Read this: Don't Be Afraid of Combative Female Guests

Once you feel you have the full story, take into account how severe the harassment was and the employee’s previous behavior. Your options are to warn the perpetrator or to instantly dismiss him or her.

At the end of the day, it’s important to act quickly.

“Employers are reminded that significant ramifications can flow from failing to respond promptly and thoroughly to a report of harassment,” Flores points out.

“Not only does inaction by the employer strengthen claims of harassment, it also may lead to failing to fix a problem that will affect other employees—not just the one who made the report. And, in light of the #MeToo movement, businesses and co-workers are being held accountable in many ways, including on social media, in how they respond to reports of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.”

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