ULG's Language Services Blog

How to Mitigate Workplace Harassment in Multicultural Environments

With stories of workplace harassment dominating the news, one thing is clear: businesses of all sizes must take action to prevent being caught up in costly scandals of their own. If you think this only applies to companies in high profile industries like entertainment and tech, think again. In 2016, the EEOC recovered $164.5 million for workplace harassment claims in a host of industries across the board. Most reported harassment claims come from industries like hospitality, retail, and manufacturing.

As awareness and open discussion of the problem grows, corporate employees will be more likely to come forward with their own workplace harassment experiences and claims.

To protect themselves (and their employees), companies must have clear policies in place, along with thorough and effective training. But today's businesses often have multicultural, multilingual workforces, sometimes spread out over many different countries. How do you ensure everyone is on the same page to mitigate the likelihood of workplace harassment?

Here are 4 steps your company must take to keep your workplace harassment policies from getting lost in translation.

Understand the Relevant Laws

In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace harassment based on traits like race or gender. This provision may apply to the following types of employers:

  • American and American-controlled employers operating abroad.
  • Foreign employers operating inside the United States.

Additionally, there are sometimes state and local laws to contend with. These may be even more strict. And if your company has teams in other countries, you may need to account for their laws as well.

Be Aware of Cultural Differences

What is workplace harassment, anyway? Standards of appropriate behavior can vary widely across cultures. To effectively educate employees, companies must be aware of these differences. Workforce Magazine research found that "incidents of harassment in international situations were frequently resolved once employees were informed that the employees in question were offended by the behavior. "

Most employees will change their behavior to conform to company policies and to avoid offending their coworkers. Make sure they know what those policies are.


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Make Workplace Harassment Policies Clear to All Employees

Clear, easily understandable workplace harassment policies can help stop problems before they start. But the policies in question need to be clearly communicated to all employees, across different languages and cultures.

Language about workplace harassment is sometimes difficult to translate cross-culturally. Laws in other countries are often quite different, as well. Therefore, companies must choose their translation partners wisely.

These are complex issues, and simply translating your policies word-for-word from English is likely to lead to confusion and potential non-compliance among non-English speaking employees. At ULG, we use native-speaking linguists and subject matter experts to ensure your policies are translated correctly and will be easily understood by everyone.


Effectively Translate Training Materials

A strong workplace harassment policy is an essential first step, but it's not enough on its own. It's also necessary to provide training on these policies to reduce incidents of harassment and to protect your organization from liability.

In order to be effective, training must take into account language barriers and cultural differences. This is especially important for multinational organizations, but even US-based organizations with significant numbers of ESL employees may need to translate training materials.

ULG's native-speaking instructional designers and linguists can localize your workplace harassment training materials and eLearning courses to increase their effectiveness for your target audience.

Finally, protecting your business doesn't have to break your budget. ULG's award-winning project management process and innovative translation technology saves time and money without compromising quality.

Want to learn more? Give us a call at 1-800-737-8481.