Racial and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As ethnic diversity in the workplace becomes more and more evident, so do the consequences that come with it.  Studies have shown that in some specialized fields women and non-whites are the mass of the work force, and more cases of racial and sexual harassment are being reported.  In large businesses, practice managers are trained to make quick decisions on different racial and sexual harassment occurrences, but small businesses don’t have this luxury.  The number one way to correctly resolve and all together prevent occurrences as such is to implement HR Policies.
                The first option you have to rid your office of this issue is to implement the HR policy yourself.  Making your position clear and implementing your own HR policy on sexual and racial harassment can prove advantageous just because you are doing the work yourself. However, the tedious paperwork and time consumption that comes with it, as well as the knowledge one must acquire to be able to correctly identify an occurrence, then proceed accordingly, can be hard to achieve.  If you must consult with others about whether or not this is a valid case of harassment, the situation has the potential to mushroom into costly lawsuits and discontented employees.  When an HR policy is put into play you have to be prepared for the chain of events that will occur when a complaint is filed.  You can be prepared by fully understanding the processes you must go through. First, investigate all complaints based on sexual and racial harassment, taking each complaint as seriously as the last. Immediately take appropriate action, assuming you know what that action entails, and make sure your management positions are educated enough to be able to make correct decisions in the future. Making sure everyone is onboard with the strategies that you are putting in place can help you avoid costly lawsuits and keep content workers.
                The second and more beneficial option available to better avoid sexual and racial harassment occurrences is to outsource this human resource task and free yourself of the burden of time, hassle, and paperwork.  Data has shown that more businesses with outsourced HR have a better structured policy in place for sexual and racial harassment cases than non-outsourced HR businesses.  This task can be outsourced to an employee leasing company, which would control the mass amount of personnel management for a cost based on a percentage of your payroll expenses. Many employee leasing companies have transformed over the years into a PEO, or Professional Employer Organization.  PEOs can offer core functions of the work place to office management, and can put into place HR policies that are able to address claims of harassment in the workplace.  Larger companies have the option of hiring specialized HR employees to deal with harassment cases on the spot and/or implementing their own HR policy. However, if you are a small business you don’t have this luxury as well as the luxury to take a financial hit such as a lawsuit would bring.  The small business does not have enough size to make specialized divisions of the work force for HR, payroll, and other core functions.  Outsourcing these to a PEO can help save time and money and allow management time to better focus on their business.  Offloading administrative tasks such as HR, Payroll, Worker’s Comp, and Performance Management to a PEO will help you better equip for the future.
                With the increase in ethnic diversity and women in the work place, sexual and racial harassment cases are going to be a problem that management will have to deal with.  An HR policy, self-implemented, mostly benefits large businesses, while outsourcing HR to an employee leasing company or professional employer organization, is more advantageous to the small business.  The bottom line is to be prepared and not to be naive enough to think these things won’t happen to you, because they just might.  Being able to limit these problems and to keep them under control is a quality of successful businesses.  Helping employees work with as little stress as possible can help them better focus their skills into helping your business thrive in today’s tough economic environment.
About the Author
Carolyn Stoll is a frequent contributor to PEOcompare.com and writes about issues that may affect small businesses. She is a founder of PEOcompare.com which helps match small businesses with the right PEO Companies for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding service to customers.
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