As a small business owner, you are legally required to provide a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace for your employees.
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Your company may already have an Equal Employment Opportunity policy in place. (If not, you need to read up on Equal Opportunity Compliance for Small Businesses ASAP!) But what else can you do to help promote a friendly work environment?
An Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement is a declaration of your company's commitment to a fully compliant workplace. It assures your employees that your business simply won't tolerate any behavior that is considered to be harassment or treats them unfairly. But more than that, an EEO statement can serve as legal evidence that your business takes discrimination and harassment seriously. Government contracts and other business opportunities may even require an EEO statement to be prominently displayed onsite.
The content of EEO statements can be customized to suit your workplace and business environment. But a good EEO statement should address a handful of issues, including the following content areas that need to be mentioned in the statements you post in your workplace.
- Company commitment. Your statement should begin with a clear description of your commitment to provide an equal opportunity and harassment-free workplace as well as an intention to comply with federal, state and local laws. This may seem obvious, but it establishes the intent to create an employee-friendly workplace.
- Non-discrimination categories. The meat and potatoes of the statement consists of a thorough description of non-discrimination categories including sex, race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, marital status, age and any other status protected by federal, state or local laws.
- Sexual harassment. Many employers give special treatment to the subject of sexual harassment in their EEO statement. This involves more than saying that sexual harassment won't be tolerated – it's also a description of what constitutes sexual harassment in your work environment.
- Reporting. It's critical to describe the channels through which employees can report incidents of discrimination or harassment. This is a good place to briefly discuss the repercussions and sanctions that may be imposed on offenders.
- Non-recrimination. At some point in the EEO statement you will want to mention the fact that there will be no recrimination against employees who claim their rights have been violated. Workers should know that the company will protect them and a non-recrimination clauses can strengthen your legal standing.