FIVE SIMPLE STEPS FOR EMPLOYERS
Harvey Weinstein is starring in a horror flick that he produced. Response to a New York Times article regarding Weinstein has been fast and furious. On October 5, 2017, The Times published an article about Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment. Allegations spanning decades ranged from unwanted sexual advances to sexual assaults.
Several women came forward after the story broke to accuse Weinstein of similar misconduct.
The accusers’ accounts are variations on a familiar theme: young women hoping to find success in the film industry face unwanted sexual advances from a power player who was once referred to as “God” by Meryl Streep. It sounds like a tawdry Hollywood film plot, but it is serious business with legal fallout. Weinstein has been fired, board members and legal advisers have resigned. Now that so many high profile women have come forward, other women experiencing sexual harassment in their workplaces may feel more comfortable coming forward with their own complaints.
In June 2016, the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reported that workplace harassment too often goes unreported. “Common workplace-based responses by those who experience sex-based harassment are to avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior. The least common response to harassment is to take some formal action – either to report the harassment internally or file a formal legal complaint. Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct. (Emphasis added.) Employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or to file a complaint because they fear disbelief of their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.”
According to the EEOC, there are five “core principles” in a harassment prevention program:
- Committed and engaged leadership
- Consistent and demonstrated accountability
- Strong and comprehensive harassment policies
- Trusted and accessible complaint procedures
- Regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization
Employers will be able to highlight their adherence to these five principles in their harassment prevention programs in the event that they have to respond to harassment charges. Employers should practice preventive law. (See Preventive Law blog post.) It is employers’ responsibility to create and promote a culture in which potential complainants understand that they will not be subjected to retaliation, their complaints will be taken seriously and investigated appropriately – regardless of the position of the accused perpetrator – and that they have no reason to fear they will be re-victimized for coming forward to make a complaint.