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Since news broke of the allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, the dam has breached, and the news has been flooded with reports of sexual harassment allegations against other high profile media figures, journalists, and executives. Sifting through each troubling new development, one cannot help but notice the sheer volume of reports and the many years over which the alleged abuse took place. As we await what seems to be the inevitable – news of yet another claim of sexual harassment against a high profile figure, employers should take this moment to review their own policies and practices for handling claims of sexual harassment to ensure that their company does not get swept up in the deluge.
When you put the latest newsbreak down, here are some important steps to take:
- Review company policies and procedures:
Employers should maintain a written policy preventing workplace sexual harassment, which could be included in the company handbook or as a stand-alone company policy. The policy should clearly define sexual harassment, contain a procedure for reporting and investigating complaints of sexual harassment, and explain that the employer will take prompt remedial action to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence.
- Conduct routine training:
Employers should conduct routine anti-harassment training that covers the employer’s policy and procedures, explains what constitutes harassment, teaches how to look for signs of harassment, and instructs employees on the proper response if they suspect harassment has occurred. If employees already receive training, the program should be re-examined for its effectiveness.
- Set the tone for a positive workplace culture:
Setting the tone starts from the top. Management should be involved and participate in training programs, understand company policies, be able to effectively respond to claims of harassment, understand their obligation to prevent retaliation, and condemn harassment if it occurs. What a positive workplace culture looks like depends on the organization itself. If you are not sure of your company’s workplace culture, consider conducting a climate survey of staff.
Adam E. Konstas is an Attorney in PK Law’s Education and Labor Group. He represents local school boards, superintendents, private schools, colleges, and private sector employers before federal and state courts, and federal and state civil rights agencies on a variety of matters, including employment discrimination litigation, teacher and student discipline, collective bargaining, and sexual harassment. Mr. Konstas also advises schools on the design and implementation of policies and procedures regarding student and employee relations, and system-wide policy issues including the use of online instructional tools and cloud computing, student data privacy, anti-discrimination, and website accessibility.
Mr. Konstas is an adjunct professor of school law at McDaniel College, where he completed a class on “Best Practices for Online Teaching and Learning” and is currently teaching an online school law class. He has also lectured on employment law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Mr. Konstas can be reached at 410-339-5786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.