The #MeToo movement is going strong, and smart employers will do more than sit back and think, “That would never happen here.” We all wish that to be the case, but the lesson of the recent past is that it can — and does — happen anywhere.
ALM, the publisher of law.com, recently compiled a panel of legal experts for a roundtable discussion of how the law has failed to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and what lawyers and businesses can do to create a safe space for employees. Here are some of their conclusions.
Attorneys and human resource professionals must heed the problems.
“Lawyers and human resources professionals have failed to confront the problems or senior executives have ignored their recommendations.”
Enforcement must start at the top.
“When the problem starts at the very top, what victim is going to expect any justice from an internal complaint?”
“In some cases, the leaders who are targets of the claims are likely the ones deciding their own fate.”
“Harvey Weinstein is responsible for his own conduct. His responsibility only slightly overshadows the responsibility of various enablers [who were] aware of the depth, breadth, and severity of what was occurring, regularly.”
Observers must speak up.
“Much of the blame goes to the silent complicity of the men surrounding Weinstein, who did nothing despite his years of flagrant abuse and criminality.”
“Women are doing their part by risking everything to come forward. But we men need to do more than congratulate ourselves for not personally harassing anyone.”
The law only goes so far in protecting victims from harassment and discrimination.
“I know that laws themselves don’t stop bad behavior, they only make self-reflective people think before they act. But money doesn’t seem to change things, particularly among those who have a lot of it.”
“As illustrated by Harvey Weinstein, there are not only those people who feel they are above the law, but there are those people who have the means to stay ahead of the law or blunt its effects.”
Anti-harassment training and policies are insufficient.
“Mandatory anti-harassment training centers on responding to and countering allegations of harassment, not on preventing bad behavior or protecting victims.”
“Unfortunately, laws and policies are only as effective as the human beings who employ, supervise and work within institutions.”
Workplaces must find new ways to encourage reporting and respond quickly to problems in order to prevent harassment.
“We need something like a workers’ “bill of rights” that identifies immediately suspect behavior, such as invitations to off-campus meetings, or just about anything having to do with a hotel room.”
“Employers should have in place clear sexual harassment and retaliation policies, procedures, and training that consider victims’ reluctance to speak out, and that make known and carry out explicit job consequences for harassers.”
“As attorneys, and perhaps employers ourselves, we need to make sure [a] proper reporting framework is in place in case of actual or alleged workplace misconduct.”
The entire transcript of the roundtable, found here, is worth a read.
We would love the opportunity to help you refine your harassment and discrimination policies to create a healthy and productive workplace. Call us anytime.