Long before the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and others became common knowledge, many employers took steps they thought would ensure a safe work environment for all employees. But many of those employers are now asking: Are we doing enough?
This is a smart question to ask since the large corporations generating media headlines on this issue – NBC News, ABC, CBS, NPR, FOX, ESPN, Tesla, the New York City Ballet, Google, and others – surely took basic steps most employers take to prevent harassment. Assuredly, each of these companies had an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure, as well as policies protecting employees from retaliation if they came forward.
However, the recent news has highlighted the fact that those policies and procedures do not always accomplish the desired result of a harassment-free workplace. Now is the perfect time to revisit this issue and ensure that you are doing all you can to avoid having the next #metoo occur on your watch.
If you are wondering what more you can do to ensure a safe, non-hostile work environment, consider the following suggestions:
- Have an outside employment attorney or Human Resources consultant audit your current policies and practices to ensure that they are up-to-date and legally sound. He or she can also discuss your workplace culture and do a “risk factor” analysis to help you determine where your weaknesses lie.
- Carefully consider who your policy requires employees to advise of their concerns. Is it someone who employees recognize as approachable? Impartial? Trustworthy?
- Think about whether you have done interactive, effective training on your harassment and discrimination policy, including scenario-based discussions. Have you given employees the opportunity to ask questions? Have you separately trained your managers on their unique responsibilities and what to do if an employee approaches them with a complaint of harassment or discrimination?
- What does your policy require of an employee who witnesses harassment but is not the target of it? Does that person have an obligation to report it, or is he or she permitted to look the other way?
- Do you know what to do if the #metoo movement results in an employee reporting sexual harassment that occurred a long time ago, but he or she was afraid to report it at the time?