May 21, 2020

How to avoid workplace harassment during a pandemic

Prevent Workplace Harassment While Working from Home

The COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses to quickly adapt operations to support new working conditions. While businesses have quickly figured out how to hold team meetings using video conferencing and to protect essential workers, employees in a socially distant workplace can still experience harassment. 

Wherever you and your team are working, whether at home during shelter-in-place or in an environment with extra precautions, your goal is to keep your employees safe and stable. Here are some workplace harassment issues to keep top-of-mind during COVID-19. 

 

Workplace harassment still exists when working from home

Just because your office has transitioned to remote work doesn’t mean that harassment is no longer a threat. In fact, harassment may become more prevalent because harassers feel more emboldened when hiding behind a screen. 

Make it clear to employees what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable when working from home. Review your workplace anti-harassment policies to ensure they cover online harassment. Let them know what channels are available for making complaints without fear of repercussions. 

 

Stay informed of government guidance

It seems like there are new recommendations from the government every day related to public health and the economy. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has created a COVID-19 resource center to help employers navigate the pandemic as it relates to complying with employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Workplace harassment issues employers need to consider during the pandemic include:

  • Employees requesting sick leave because they are exhibiting symptoms, or sending employees home for exhibiting symptoms
  • Reasonable accommodations for employees who need help caring for family members because schools and other institutions are closed
  • Requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment when interacting with others
  • Discrimination against employees due to national origin or race, particularly employees of Asian descent

Turn to industry leaders to ensure you’re doing what you can to protect employees and remain in compliance. 

 

Watch for unconscious bias

Overt discrimination is easy to spot and address, but what about unconscious bias? Some employees may be treating other employees differently because of a perceived threat of contracting the disease, perhaps without realizing their behavior. 

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began there has been a rise in harassment against people of Asian descent. Healthcare providers are also reporting that they are subject to harassment when entering public spaces while wearing their uniforms. Members of communities that are more likely to be at risk, particularly people over age 65 and people from communities of color are also experiencing additional discrimination. 

It’s important to spend time evaluating how unconscious bias impacts leaders, team members, independent contractors and clients. Recognizing the potential for unconscious bias is an important part of drafting any policies regarding workplace safety. 

 

Protect your employees during COVID-19

Combat harassment in the workplace with an independent platform that helps employees to address (and employers to prevent) harassment issues. Work Shield is the first and only way to effectively prevent, deal with and solve workplace harassment and discrimination. Learn more about Work Shield at workshield.com.