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The Changing Landscape of Workplace Harassment

Based on the results of a survey conducted in March 2013 by global ethics and compliance expert NAVEX Global, employers would do well to expand their anti-harassment policies and training to include prohibitions against bullying and cyber harassment. NAVEX polled the prevention measures and approaches organizations are using to cultivate trust and a safe working environment. The key finding on emerging harassment trends include: Sexual orientation (79 percent), religious (73 percent), and disability (71 percent) harassment are among the most common trends companies cover in their harassment prevention training. 75 percent of organizations are actively training against retaliation claims, but there has been an uptick in the number of retaliation claims over the past 12 months. About 23 percent of survey respondents have also seen an increase in bullying claims over the last year, which may be due in part to the fact that only 50 percent of organizations are training employees on bullying prevention. Only 34 percent of the survey respondents have a specific policy for handling harassment via social media. Even though there was an uptick in the number of retaliation claims among responding companies, 77 percent of the organizations said they do not typically see harassment complaints followed by allegations of retaliation. Perhaps in response to this trend, the survey findings also showed that half of all organizations are now using multiple platforms of training in order to combat retaliation in the workplace. "As the definition of retaliation continues to expand, organizations are taking extra steps to minimize retaliatory behavior. The survey tells us that half of organizations are using a combination of encouraging open communication, monitoring employee actions, policy creation and distribution, disciplinary measures, and dedicated training programs to decrease the likelihood of retaliation," stated NAVEX vice president Ingrid Fredeen. NAVEX also found it notable that only 32 percent of respondent companies are actively training employees on social media harassment prevention. According to the company, as social media becomes more engrained in everyday life, offering a more extensive and often insidious platform to engage in inappropriate behavior, it will become increasingly important for employers to educate their employees on the seriousness of cyber harassment and retaliation. SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at