Human Resources

Time to Revisit Your Sexual Harassment Policy

Register for this important HR Symposium & Luncheon on February 28, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. at ABC Texas Gulf Coast.

Sexual harassment has been unlawful in the workplace for more than 50 years.  Yet it remains the most visible employment issue facing corporate America today.  Victims of sexual harassment are emboldened to speak up, and a remarkable number of business leaders in many industries are being called out for alleged bad behavior and forced to step down.  Every day there are allegations in the headlines and news of another firing due to inappropriate conduct.

 

According to EEOC statistics, last year more than 13,000 administrative charges alleged sex-based harassment. As more victims find their voices, it will be no surprise if the number of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC reach record numbers in 2017.  Businesses face huge legal and reputational risks if they turn a blind eye to serial perpetrators at any level of the organization, but especially at the top. In today’s climate, the wisest business practice will be to identify pro-actively inappropriate behavior and end it swiftly and decisively. 

 

What should concerned businesses be doing?  Consider the following action steps:

 

1.  Review existing anti-harassment policies and audit the effectiveness of their complaint reporting mechanisms and anti-retaliation precautions. 

 

2.  Hold employees accountable—especially at the executive level—for their bad behavior in a meaningful and proportional manner. 

 

3.  Identify vulnerabilities by harnessing complaint data, both historical and current, to determine if there are any trends by geographic location, business unit or job category.

 

4.  Consider conducting an anonymous employee survey to determine whether unreported and still-festering harassment issues, rumors or open secrets negatively impact the company and pose continuing legal risks. 

 

5.  Make necessary or desired adjustments to the content and frequency of anti-harassment training and schedule training for all employees at all levels of the company.

 

6.  Because workplace culture is critical to identifying and preventing harassment, schedule and spend time on leadership “buy-in” before rolling out the updated policy, and educate leaders regarding how best to proactively promote a workplace culture free from harassment, and spell out for them the potential consequences—both to the company and to them individually—of failure to achieve such a culture.   

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G. Mark Jodon, a shareholder with Littler Mendelson, is board-certified in labor & employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Mark serves the ABC Gulf Coast Chapter as its chapter attorney and chairperson of the Human Resources Committee.  Mark can be reached at (713) 652-4739 and mjodon@littler.com.  Please email Mark if you would like to receive a comprehensive resource on harassment, discrimination and retaliation at no charge.