A Call to Action—Stamping Out Workplace Harassment

Jason E. Reisman

“This” isn’t just about Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, or others in the news. “This” isn’t just about politicians, Hollywood, and the media.

“This” is a real problem in workplaces across the country. Every time we hear a story that sounds surreal, we want to believe it’s some type of joke. But, it never is. Although the law—and common sense—make clear that such conduct is not acceptable, it still happens. It’s been happening in the employment setting for decades. Now, with the latest revelations being broadcast across the news, it’s finally getting more widespread attention. And, “this” needs attention, as well as focused efforts at eradication.

The only tried and true way to create an environment that does not tolerate acts of harassment and minimizes the risk of such workplace conduct is by setting the right tone and sending the right message—from the top down. Sure, it’s cliché to say it all starts at the top; but it certainly does in these situations.

Sending the right message, which includes direct communication and participation from corporate leadership, cannot be underestimated. Below are five key ongoing and simple tasks that must be accomplished in order to support that message and perpetuate it.

  1. Implement a “real” zero tolerance policy prohibiting all types of sexual (and other types of) harassment and give it teeth, and provide multiple outlets for employees to report inappropriate conduct (if you already have one, when was the last time you used it, reviewed it in detail, and updated it?).
  2. Disseminate the policy to all employees with a direct message from the top (do this periodically and for all new hires), and follow and enforce the policy…always.
  3. Train all management and employees, including top leadership (the most effective training is through in-person, interactive sessions of relatively short duration incorporating real life hypotheticals for discussion).
  4. Expeditiously and thoroughly investigate all complaints.
  5. Communicate the results of your investigations and take remedial measures, when warranted, that are designed to stop any problematic conduct AND to prevent any in the future.

Unfortunately, successful harassment prevention doesn’t happen overnight nor does it come without some investment by the company and the leadership. But, if the recent press and social media frenzy are any indication, the investment is more than worthwhile. Remember, it’s a little like purchasing insurance—you’re investing in it with the hopes of not experiencing any covered events. Of course, if you do, you’ll be armed and ready with a viable policy and process to handle it internally. Even if it somehow turns into an external administrative agency or court claim, you’ll have solid foundational defenses in place—your policy, process, and training.

Don’t let “this” problem become your problem. Act now. Learn from the mistakes and blind eye of others. We’re here to help, so please feel free to reach out for our advice and guidance.

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