Hardware Retailing

FEB 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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February 2018 | HARDWARE RETAILING 97 There are two forms of illegal harassment. One is called quid pro quo, which is a 'this-for-that' situation that deals with sex or sexual favors that features a distinct power dynamic from leader to employee. The other more common form of illegal harassment is a hostile work environment. This doesn't have to be about sex, but harassment targets one or more protected characteristics, including race, religion, gender, age and disability, among others. At the baseline, any behavior that someone finds offensive should be addressed. In order to avoid illegal harassment, you need to constantly be training on and tackling the forms of harassment that aren't technically illegal head-on. HR: What should an owner or manager understand about harassment? PP: They need to be aware of what the law says and what it doesn't say. While a company should be vigilant about appropriate, respectful behavior from every level of the organization, from both a business perspective and legal perspective, more is expected of supervisors. As leaders, they need to be well-behaved and serve as role models and resources for their employees. All parties should train on and discuss this topic, but leaders in the business have more expectations and legal ramifications. This varies from state to state, so they should consult a lawyer to be aware of the specific laws they need to know. The goal through all of this, however, is not to scare managers and employees into behaving well, but to educate the team how to be more empathetic and realize how to act. The law is just the floor, not the ceiling. Don't violate the law. Company culture shouldn't be to just comply with the bare minimum, but to be respectful all around. HR: What training should employers implement to address and prevent harassment? PP: At Emtrain, we encourage all employers to provide education and training for everyone, not just their high-level management. In the past, training on this topic has only emphasized providing training and awareness to owners or managers of a business. I find that this is because an employer thinks if they educate employees on this topic, they could turn around and sue them. However, I believe educating on harassment will do the opposite. A more informed team of employees knows their rights and responsibilities, and by seeing that the business they work for is committed to preventing and stopping these issues, there is a better chance the employer and management will be made aware of issues right away. This process ensures any inappropriate behavior or actions from others are handled when it's at a 1 instead of a 9. While an employment lawsuit is bad, repercussions on the business could be worse. If there isn't an open forum for employees to voice their concerns, there is a greater chance they will take their problems to social media, blogs or even to the press. To keep it top of mind, however, quick check-ins and follow-up questions and answers can make a big difference as well. HR: Why should a retail operation have an open dialogue about workplace harassment? PP: The emphasis has previously been about training only owners and managers, because the employer is worried an employee will sue them in the case of harassment. However, it's the opposite. More informed employees who are committed to these issues will address a problem as soon as it happens instead of letting something get out of control. In my organization, we stress in-house training, whether it's a live training seminar or an online format. However, training is just a small piece of a large puzzle. As a continuation, I encourage micro-learning sessions to keep all employees on the same page. I also encourage all employers to look at this conversation as an opportunity to make certain they are complying with the law, and in turn, create a healthier workplace culture. No matter who an employee is, make them feel welcome. This is the best decision you can make. If you have created a productive, engaged workplace, the better off you are as an employer. I recommend that those employers who provide training in harassment have a meeting with the entire company present. This method assures employees that the high-level people in the company want to know if there are issues and that everyone should be treated with respect. Patti Perez Vice President of Workplace Strategy Patti Perez is a certified human resources executive specializing in workplace harassment at Emtrain, a company that creates healthier organizations through online compliance training, expert guidance and data analytics. Learn more at emtrain.com. In order to avoid illegal harassment, you need to constantly be training on and tackling the forms of harassment that aren't technically illegal head-on.

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