Translating your sexual harassment policy

You can’t turn on the news or go online these days without coming across the topic of sexual harassment.  As a result, companies are scrambling to update their policies and ensure compliance across their organizations.

Just last week, Facebook released its policy on sexual harassment and bullying. COO Sheryl Sandberg describes the motivation for sharing what had previously been an internal policy:

These are complicated issues, and while we don’t believe any company’s enforcement or policies are perfect, we think that sharing best practices can help us all improve, especially smaller companies that may not have the resources to develop their own policies. Every company should aspire to doing the hard and continual work necessary to build a safe and respectful workplace, and we should all join together to make this happen.

Though no industry is immune, sexual harassment and violence disproportionately affects low wage immigrant workers. A UC Santa Cruz study from 2010 found that 60% of female farmworkers, most of whom were Latina immigrants, had been victims of sexual harassment, and two PBS Frontline films highlight the vulnerability of immigrant women who work on farms and in janitorial services.  Fear of losing their jobs – and of deportation – mean that they’re more likely to keep their experiences quiet.   

Whether in the fields, on manufacturing floors, in restaurants or in corporate offices, the importance of a clear workplace harassment policy remains essential – but what happens when your employees don’t speak or read English?  

One in five US residents speaks a language other than English at home, with Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and Arabic among the most common.  For organizations with a multilingual workforce, the importance of translating essential workplace policies cannot be overstated.  As a translation agency, we also strongly support the use of professional translators rather than bilingual employees.  Professional translators are exactly that: professionals. Sensitive legal communications should only be translated by someone who has experience with this type of translation, both to better protect your employees and also to protect you from legal liability.  

But it’s not enough just to translate and distribute a policy document; you need to train your team on what your standard is for a respectful work environment, what the definition of harassment is, how to register a complaint and what the consequences are for violating your policy.  Workers need a voice – and American workplace culture has made it so that many haven’t had one.  Especially when that voice is in a language other than English, it’s essential that companies facilitate communication across multiple languages and support the right that everyone has for a harassment-free workplace.

Creating a safe and respectful workplace is the right thing to do to protect your people, and it’s also a smart thing to do to protect your company from costly EEOC lawsuits.  If your organization has speakers of other languages, let Multilingual Connections help translate your harassment policy or provide an interpreter for an onsite training or investigation. Contact us to learn more.