Building an Ethical Culture: the Basics

Even within the same industry, organizations can have radically different cultures. There are norms, both tacit and explicit, that address how colleagues interact, how management communicates with employees, and how customers are treated. In terms of ethics, some companies pay lip service to ethical behavior, while others walk the walk.

For long-term success and to attract the best talent, those with a truly ethical culture are the winners.

So how can organizations build a resilient yet flexible culture that values ethics throughout its ranks? First, it’s important to establish and communicate what behaviors are constructive and to be encouraged, and which others undermine an ethical mission. Companies that take the time to ask all employees what specifically works and what is clearly unethical within their respective roles can develop a clear set of guidelines that can be communicated across numerous channels.

The tone at the top also matters a great deal. Employees follow the lead not just of their immediate managers, but look to senior leadership for cues on how to behave. If a CEO demonstrates unimpeachable integrity in all she says—and more importantly, what she does—that can go a long way in shaping what happens at all levels of the organization.

While it’s a simple truth that reinforcing behavior that is desirable and refraining from reinforcing that which is not, many commercial pressures can work against it. Organizations must be mindful, intentional and articulate about which behaviors they wish to encourage and which they do not. Incentives can range from monetary rewards to accolades and recognition. The important thing is to be clear and consistent in providing thoughtful and corrective feedback that is rooted not in punishment but in education.

If people are going to behave ethically, they need to be given the tools to do so. Having a leader focused exclusively (or almost exclusively) on ethics provides a point person within the organization.

Equally important is appropriate training. Syntrio’s online courses are designed to address the most pressing and broadly applicable business ethics and HR compliance training issues. Each customizable course provides practical guidance on employment laws and other legal and ethical concerns that may arise in the workplace. For a full list of our training options, click here.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


 

Where We Are Going We Don’t Need Roads

You may have put some thought into the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your sexual harassment training in recent months. Perhaps the pervasiveness of news articles on the subject has piqued your interest, or [more hopefully] you are genuinely concerned with preventing misconduct in your organization. In either event, you may be thinking about how simple “check the box” training is not getting the job done. If so, you are probably right.

A number of studies in recent years have shown that all methods of compliance training, as most commonly presented, are ineffective.

This means that the lawyer in front of a lectern isn’t working, nor is the simple text-based program you are feeding your employees. At Syntrio we have put a lot of thought and hours into creating more effective training and do so in response to cries from the market for more engaging training.

According to a recent article in Chief Learning Officer, some companies are taking e-learning to the next level of empathy by placing users in a virtual reality environment with victims and harassers all at once. By using 360 video, there is the belief that a more immersed user will be a more engaged user. Although the end result is likely correct, the cost of such a program is obviously sky-high at the moment. Even as virtual reality headsets like Sony’s PlayStation VR drop in price on a near weekly basis, implementing a virtual reality training program at the moment is not cost-effective for most companies.

Syntrio has heard the calls for more engaging training and has listened. We are constantly developing new methods of immersive training that allows the user to position him or herself in the eyes of the victim and harasser alike, so as to connect with the training in a way that simply is not occurring in the marketplace (absent of extremely expensive technology like a virtual reality headset).

We believe the key to successful training lies in the writing.

Users are tired of reading about a random girl named Nicole, with whom they have no connection. We know that e-learning needs to do better, so we have taken the steps necessary to become more engaging and interactive in our sexual harassment training programs. Although you may not be strapping on a headset with 360-degree video in Syntrio’s programs you certainly will come away feeling emotionally connected to the programs in a way you will not with most products on the market. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio

 

Pour Over Effect: Wine Bar Hit with Large Harassment Judgment

5th and Wine, a Scottsdale, Arizona wine bar recently faced claims of sexual orientation harassment and retaliation. According to the complaint, the bar did nothing to stop alleged harassment against two servers, which include name calling, inappropriate touching and sexually based comments. Specifically, the two servers alleged that they were harassed based on a perception of their sexual orientation, then were retaliated against for complaining about the harassment.

On March 21, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona ordered 5th and Wine to pay the servers $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages following prosecution of the case by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC filed its lawsuit several months ago, and 5th and Wine failed to appear in court, resulting in a default judgment against the wine bar.

The court found that not only did supervisors at 5th and Wine do nothing to prevent the harassment, in many cases they actually participated in the misconduct. As soon as one of the servers alerted the employer that he was planning on filing a complaint with the EEOC, he was immediately fired.

This case presents a growing problem in employment law: small companies with a duty to prevent harassment from occurring actually participating in the misconduct. Many times, particularly in smaller businesses, supervisors, managers, executives and owners are in charge of taking complaints, yet also are the ones engaging in the misconduct. The slippery slope that is created when an employee is fired after making a complaint only exacerbates the problem.

So what to do?

The first step in preventing incidents of misconduct is to become aware that you may have a problem. If you are allowing an environment of jokes and innuendo to continue in your business (whether employees seem to tolerate it or not) you likely have a culture of harassment. Your company needs to take dedicated steps to prevent misconduct and change the culture, followed by a plan of maintenance to ensure a respectful workplace that is encouraging of diversity in thought and ideas. As you can see here, doubling down on intolerance with adverse employment action can lead to a significant penalty. It is likely that 5th and Wine does not have $100,000 to simply “make this go away,” and no business should feel comfortable paying that sum for an inappropriate set of circumstances.

Contact Syntrio to learn more about how we can help your organization best position itself to prevent incidents of harassment in the workplace! 

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance), and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio

 

Second Circuit Holds Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

On March 1, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the second such decision in the last year, with the Seventh Circuit reaching the same conclusion in 2017. The two decisions holding that sexual orientation discrimination is indeed discrimination based on sex are in conflict with an Eleventh Circuit decision reaching the opposite conclusion, and make clear that this issue is ripe for review by the United States Supreme Court.

Although a near-majority of states outlaw sexual orientation discrimination via their state fair-employment laws, under the federal law there is no clear consensus. In recent years there has been a growing trend to bring sex-related issues within the purview of Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has prosecuted cases wherein plaintiffs were victims of discrimination based on their sexual orientation. That said, last week’s decision is a landmark for proponents of equality, and should have far-reaching implications in the coming months.

Clarity on the Issue

The Supreme Court declined to review this issue for the current term when there were just two circuits split in authority, but now that more Court of Appeals decisions are coming down there is a clear need for clarity on the issue. Although the Supreme Court is extremely unpredictable in its decision making, there has been a clear trend toward including sexual orientation within the protection afforded by Title VII in the district courts (as well as the aforementioned state laws).

If you are an employer who has yet to institute a policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, now would be a good time to do so, regardless of your jurisdiction’s current position on the issue. In addition to the legality of the issue, it is simply good practice to be more inclusive than the law on issues of discrimination and harassment. For that reason, now may be a good time to train your employees on issues of sex-based discrimination that they may not traditionally associate with their view of “sex discrimination” and what exactly that term means.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance), and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio

 

#MeToo Allegation Spurs South Korean Actor’s Suicide

Jon Min-ki, a South Korean actor best known for his roles on a variety of television shows was found dead at this morning. According to multiple news outlets, the cause of death appears to be suicide. Min-ki, who was perhaps best known known for his role in 2013’s The Attorney, had recently been accused of molesting multiple students at Cheongju University, where he had been teaching.

Following the harassment allegations Min-ki lost his role as a professor and was edited out of several television shows he had filmed. Min-ki’s death is the latest incident highlighting a rash of harassment allegations sweeping Asia in recent months and shows that the harassment problem goes far beyond what we are experiencing in the United States.

Sexual harassment has become such a pervasive issue that there [rightly] is a massive stigma attached to an allegation. Given the seriousness of events such as Min-ki’s suicide it is extremely important that we take all steps possible to create a culture that is inclusive of thought and reduces the potential for these types of incidents. There are no excuses for sexual harassment, but perhaps with greater awareness we could prevent both incidents like these and the resulting depression and suicide that is associated with high-profile harassment allegations.

It is easy to forget the consequences for perpetrators of sexual harassment, as we [correctly] focus first on the victims. But incidents such as Min-ki’s death highlight the pervasiveness of the problem, and the impact it has on those who commit horrible acts of harassment. As awareness of harassment grows we need to focus on truly changing culture so that we not only eliminate victimization of co-workers, but also reduce the potential for life-ending consequences of someone’s actions.

By teaching our employees the importance of acting respectfully in the workplace we can hopefully get a handle on the severe sexual harassment problem, both domestically and abroad. No employee deserves to work in an environment where harassment is tolerated, and the onus should be on companies to promote environments of tolerance so that those who have a propensity to commit such acts are identified and dealt with appropriately before their actions rise to the level of harassment. Had this been the case at the Cheongju University perhaps Min-ki would not have taken his own life.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of conflicts of interest within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio