Many employers are rushing to revise their harassment policies. The updates are being driven by so-called “textual harassment” cases that have recently landed in courts. Companies are finding out the hard way that the liabilities are huge if inappropriate text messages are being sent from one employee to another.
The reality is that textual harassment is difficult for an employer to discover unless someone complains. Employees may believe that management is tolerating the behavior rather than ignorant of the problem.
Not only can the problem snowball, but texts leave behind electronic records, making them easily traceable. All those electronic records create a growing liability for an ignorant company.
Take these steps!
- Several recent court cases have emphasized the importance of implementing text messaging policies in the workplace. Your employee handbook should have a clear and specific text-messaging policy. The policy should be clear that any form of harassment – however it’s communicated – when ever it’s communicated will not be tolerated.
- It’s important to note that your liability may extend to texts sent after hours and off premises. This is because employees may read the texts while they are at work. Policies should make clear that harassment outside the workplace is unlawful and not tolerated.
- Your policy should also include the expectation that employees inform management immediately if they become aware of harassment in the workplace. Your handbook should lay out a clear escalation path to be followed if an employee feels that the issue is not being addressed.
- Finally, modify your performance review forms to include an acknowledgement that employees understand your handbook, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies.