Proven Methods to Stop Workplace Harassment

A simple but innovative strategy has had a dramatic impact on the problem of sexual harassment and violence in the tomato growing industry.

Judge Laura Safer Espinoza, Director of the Fair Food Standards Council, told an EEOC task force this week that council  participants, including McDonalds and Walmart, pledge to only buy tomatoes from growers who implement a human rights-based code of conduct that is monitored and enforced by the Council.

“This market-driven model has – in four short years of implementation – brought an end to impunity for sexual harassment and sexual violence,” said Safer Espinoza.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace met in Los Angeles  to hear recommendations from experts on ways to stop workplace-based harassment. Other recommendations include:

  • Employers should empower bystanders to be part of the solution;
  • Provide multiple access points for reporting harassment;
  • Ensure prompt investigations of harassment complaints; and
  • Take swift disciplinary action when warranted.

Melissa Emmal, Deputy Director of Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis in Anchorage, Alaska, described the success her program has hade in reducing power-based personal violence with a program of bystander training called Green-Dot., ect.  “By approaching business owners as allies and offering them simple and effective strategies to make their employees and customers safer, we have greatly deepened the bench of community members actively engaged in violence prevention,” she said.

Heidi-Jane Olguin, CEO of Progressive Management Resources, underscored factors that make training productive. She stressed the need to train all employees, not just managers, every 12-18 months; utilizing live trainers; tailoring the training to the workplace; training in multiple languages when necessary; and training employees, managers, and HR professionals separately.

Other panelists stressed the importance of leadership from the top. Patti Perez, a shareholder at the law firm Ogletree Deakins and president of Puente Consulting, said companies that are truly committed to addressing these issues implement programs, not just policies.

Sophia Cheng, an organizer at Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles, said that in restaurants, “Even when managers don’t directly harass employees, it’s a management responsibility to foster a safe work environment, including clear anti-harassment policies. Management sets the tone.”

The public is invited to send suggestions on promising practices to prevent workplace harassment  to the task force via the EEOC website.

The panel is co-chaired by EEOC Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic.