This month, our focus is surrounding the importance of HR management, and how to handle certain issues. Churches can sometimes get into trouble because of what they don’t know. The first week looked at the importance of a good handbook. Last week we went over how to set your organization up to hire well. And today, the discussion continues with staff discipline, disputes, and harassment.
Not only do you need to have a harassment section in your Company Handbook, it probably needs multiple sections. On sexual harassment, protected classes, etc. For each, define the infraction and write out steps for handling the situation in the company handbook.
A note on harassment in the workplace: a “Workplace” doesn’t have to be your physical space – it also includes your space when you are on a business trip as well.
Another section is on Illegal Sexual Harassment: Tangible Employment Action & Hostile Work Environment. Tangible Employment can only be done from supervisor to subordinate. Damage control is the only thing that can be done here, there is no legal action on this one. Hostile Work Environment has to do with the severity and frequency of the harassment and asks if it interferes with work being done.
Separate & Investigate
In the case presented on the episode, the first step is to separate the parties. Then start an investigation. This is a great time to get someone from the outside to handle the situation. Someone who doesn’t know the parties involved, especially the serious situations. Situations have to be dealt with on a case by case basis, to the severity of the situation. The day-to-day disputes can probably be dealt with in-house.
Like we mentioned in a previous episode, have these general ideas written in your handbook, but not so specific that you lock yourself into something that could actually escalade the situation. For instance, if you handbook says the same infraction, incurred multiple times within 30 days will result in termination. Okay, but what about the same infraction happening every 31 days? They can’t be fired for that infraction, according to your handbook. Yikes!
Options for Churches
For egregious situations, what are some options and tolls for churches in these extreme situations? First, know that you are in charge and you can dictate how things goes. Instead of under or over-reacting, just send the people home so everyone can calm down and start an investigation if necessary.
Brian said around 13:40 to make note of this phrase: “We are going to handle this on a case by case bases, depending on the totality of the circumstance. This allows you to have some common sense.” With this thought, you can treat your 20-year employee differently than your 2-week employee. Since the 20-year employee has probably proven themselves over and over again.
Churches Should Be the Last Place
This is an area that we should be making a bigger deal about. Churches should be the last place any of this sort of misconduct happening. So we want to encourage people to tell everyone hire up than them when they experience something happening in their workplace.
Lots of churches fall into the pitfall of under-reacting. Or sweeping things under the rug. Even if you know the claims are totally false, you still need to investigate the situation and document your findings. Maybe even more so – to prove the innocence and the falseness of the allegations.
Clear. Concise. Direct. According to our guest his mantra is: “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
Need help with something that was mentioned today? Reach out to OutrightHR for potential help in the areas of employee disputes and harassment cases.
Join us next week as we finish up our series on Human Resources with the Steps to Firing.
Special thanks to our guest, Brian Huston, and our masters of all things Podcasting, Chris and Lauren Miller, for this third episode in our Human Resources series.