Strategies for Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace; One Size Does Not Fit All

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

Today the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) convened an “Industry Leaders Roundtable Discussion on Harassment Prevention.” Representatives from a diverse group of industries and associations discussed challenges their members and the public face in addressing issues raised by the #MeToo movement. Participants also shared strategies they have implemented to improve workplace culture and reduce harassment.

  • Rosanna Maietta, Executive Vice President of Communications & Public Relations of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and President of the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation, described the 5-Star Promise, a pledge to provide hotel employees with employee safety devices and to adopt enhanced policies, trainings and resources to improve hotel safety, including preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault.
  • Andy Brantley, President and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, shared that “we cannot simply ‘train away’ harassment. Training and heightening awareness will always be important, but we must be committed to creating and sustaining workplace cultures that do not tolerate harassment in any way, shape or form.”
  • Stephanie Martz, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Retail Federation, explained that “retailers recognize that training and a company culture of respect and inclusion are critical to effective prevention and compliance efforts.” She noted one challenge her organization and its members have identified is the importance of tailoring training to address the unique realities of the retail workplace.
  • Bobby Franklin, President and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association, emphasized that “harassment is interconnected with the lack of diversity and inclusiveness in our industry.” As a result, his organization surveys members to understand the scope of the harassment problem in their industry, and it has taken multiple steps to improve education by drafting model policies and a best practices guide.
  • James Banks, Jr., General Counsel of the Society for Human Resources Management, stated that his organization is providing human resource professionals with programming on workplace civility, inclusion, workplace investigations that can improve culture, and anti-harassment strategies. Mr. Banks explained that “the #MeToo movement has been a call to action for organizational leaders to assess their workplaces to ensure they have a healthy culture and live that culture in all they do.”

The Takeaway: In order for an employer to effectively deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, it must create a culture where harassment is not tolerated by anyone. Supervisor and employee training are tools that can help a company to achieve that goal, and they should be tailored to the needs of the particular industry and workforce. However, the commitment to a workplace culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment must start with upper management. And that means that sometimes upper management is going to have to make some difficult decisions if they learn that a valued manager or high performing employee has committed sexual harassment; if they take no action against that person, employees will see that the company is not willing to “put their money where their mouth is.”

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

©2019 Wimberly Lawson

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One thought on “Strategies for Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace; One Size Does Not Fit All

  1. Kathleen, thank you for the update. You are first rate and your advice is a good value.

    Do you have suggestions for avoiding specious claims of harassment? Or how to respond to a claim?

    Like

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