Under Armour Ends Practice of Expensing Visits to Gentlemen’s Clubs

For years, Under Armour allowed its employees, managers, supervisors and even its CEO to expense lunch buffet and happy hour visits to a variety of Gentlemen’s Clubs as part of its corporate policy. Under the former policy, Under Armour employees were encouraged to take clients, colleagues and sponsored athletes to strip clubs to relax and entertain their guests, and the company was more than willing to pay for it.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal retrieved an email from earlier in 2018 that ended the longstanding Under Armour practice. The company also issued a statement to CNBC committing the company to addressing inappropriate behavior. The message stated:

“We have addressed these serious allegations of the past and will continue to address workplace behavior that violates our policies. Inappropriate behavior that challenges our values or violates our policies is unacceptable – and will not be tolerated. We are committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace.”

Office sponsored strip-club visits are nothing new to a variety of industries including legal, financial and athletic (among others). That said, women have recently become extremely vocal about the offensive nature of these types of business development or “team building” exercises, and the practice has slowed greatly in recent years. With the advent of the #MeToo movement, many companies have understood that catering to machoism and the objectification of women is a recipe for disaster in an environment where all employees' sensitivities to potentially offensive conduct are heightened.

Although Under Armour’s statements make a serious attempt at sincerity, the overwhelming number of national news articles on this topic display the danger in allowing inappropriate practices to continue. Although there will likely be a number of male employees upset with the company for correcting its inappropriate policy, moving away from a potentially misogynistic culture is never a bad thing.

Much of the ink that has been spilled on this topic in the last 24 hours has been overly critical of Under Armour permitting employees to expense visits to the strip club. However, at least the company was honest about its mistakes and is seeking to take a more positive stance on this subject in the future. This is in stark contrast to the many employers who allow incidents of harassment and discrimination to continue to persist on their premises and do nothing more than pay large settlements with confidentiality provisions to cover up their practices. While the practice may not have been appropriate, at least the company did something to admit its wrongdoings and attempt to rectify them going forward.

As always, companies need to take steps to ensure their images are protected and their cultures are inclusive and free of harassment and discrimination. Given the large number of stories like the Under Armour strip club fiasco, now would be an exceptional time to conduct an audit of your harassment policies and training guidelines to determine what steps your organization can take to ensure your organization is not the subject of the next embarrassing news story.

How the EEOC is Revamping Workplace Culture to Prevent Harassment

As the United States continues to grapple with how to best respond to the spate of complaints and press about workplace harassment, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) further explores new avenues to addressing this concern. In 2016, the EEOC published its “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace,” a report which looked into other resolution approaches, including focus on and training related to workplace civility and bystander intervention. Businesses are carefully monitoring the EEOC’s efforts and progress on this issue as it presents among the most forward-thinking regulatory programs to prevent and stop illegal conduct through voluntary measures that also present an economic benefit to organizations.

This week, the EEOC expanded on these efforts. Some 200 attendees were present at Wednesday’s EEOC morning-long Public Meeting on “Revamping Workplace Culture to Prevent Harassment”, to hear testimonies from seven panelists with expertise in unions, research, legal practice, boards of directors and institutional education.

The meeting’s discussion explored the following topics:

Harassment claims continue to rise in the wake of the #MeToo movement. EEOC commissioners reported a significant rise in harassment complaints this year over 2017. And not only sexual harassment—reports of other forms of harassment based on protected categories continue to rise.

Narratives collected that tell of individuals’ stories harassment are compelling. Stories of sexual harassment and abuse, and other forms of harassment, provide strong testimony regarding the perils of this problem. EEOC has begun using some of these stories to help businesses appreciate the gravity of the problem, not just in terms of numbers but also regarding lives harmed. One principal concern is that reporting harassment is such a challenge for many employees that this effort needs to be balanced with related rewards: trust in the organization’s processes for handling complaints, knowledge of the report’s outcome, greater recognition the the reporter did the ‘right thing’, etc.

Harassment hurts business. Some discussion echoed prior EEOC research and guidance that businesses suffer from harassing conduct: low morale, lost productivity, departing employees, among other problems.

A holistic effort is needed within institutions to solve the problem; one solution will not work. The solution must be a combination of leadership and culture, policies and procedures, training, leadership and employee accountability.

Culture and leadership are priority. Without leadership guiding the way to a change in corporate culture that will not tolerate any form of harassing conduct, all the policies, procedures and training will not produce the needed effect. The commissioners and panelists often returned to the importance of these issues in making continuing and sustained progress in eliminating workplace harassment.

Training quality is more important than the type of training. The meeting raised the ongoing discussion of online versus live training, with examples of where each worked well. The deeper discussion involved what elements of training provided the best results:

  • Legalistic training that focused on the definition of harassment appeared to be shortsighted.
  • Contextual and behavioral training is viewed as more effective, which such topics as involved why harassment occurs (abuse of power), how it affects victims, what steps that victims and bystanders can take, barriers to overcome to encourage employees to raise concerns. Also, the meeting elicited the importance of conversations about proper and improper conduct as part of an effective solution.

Accountability is key. If leadership is not held accountable for influencing a harassment-free workplace and harassers are not disciplined for their conduct, then the commissioners and panelists expect little progress to be made.

Bystander awareness and intervention may significantly lessen the problem. The more that individuals in a workplace are willing and able to call out negative behaviors as they occur, the less that harassers will feel they can get away with their conduct or that it’s implicitly condoned. This was identified as a key component in a shift within an organizational culture.

Workplace civility may be a critical tool. Panelists indicated that shifting the focus from negative conduct to positive, affirmative behaviors has a number of benefits:

  • It changes the point of view toward more acceptable workplace practices, which employees are more comfortable addressing, than negative behaviors, which employees may have a harder time dealing with.
  • It helps to call out minor, undesirable conduct before that conduct rises to a level considered as harassment, much less illegal harassment.
  • It focuses the employees’ conduct on an organization’s policy rather than the law, which often articulates a lower level of questionable conduct as improper.

Syntrio continues to monitor the EEOC’s progress and harassment issues in the public sphere as we strive to develop training that enables individuals and organizations to promote respectful workplaces that value all individuals and that prevents or quickly and effectively deals with harassment of any kind.

EEOC Releases Preliminary Findings on Fiscal Year 2018 Charge Statistics

Those of us that have an interest in the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge and litigation statistics eagerly await the release of new data toward the beginning of each calendar year. Perhaps never has a fiscal year’s statistics been more eagerly anticipated than that of fiscal 2018. As you are undoubtedly aware, the latter half of 2017 was the advent of the #MeToo movement, which sparked awareness about sexual harassment and sexual assault both in the workplace and out. It just so happens that July 2017 marked the beginning of fiscal 2018, which means the upcoming release of statistics gives us our first glimpse into what the post #MeToo EEOC statistics will look like.

Perhaps never has a fiscal year’s statistics been more eagerly anticipated than that of fiscal 2018

Like a trailer for an upcoming Hollywood movie (which is ironic because Hollywood was where the #MeToo fire was lit), today the EEOC released some of its preliminary findings on its charge enforcement during fiscal 2018. As expected, the results are staggering. It is important to note that the EEOC did not release the 2018 data in the traditional form of updating a chart of charges. Instead, it included the preliminary data in a news release entitled “What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment.” Within this document was contained the data we have all been waiting for (or at least important pieces).

The EEOC investigated at least 800 more sexual harassment charges since the advent of the #MeToo movement

While touting its efforts to “vigorously combat workplace harassment” the EEOC casually mentioned, “[c]harges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from fiscal year 2017.” Given we know that there were 6,696 sexual harassment based charges filed in fiscal 2017, the reported increase translates to at least 7,499 charges filed in 2018. Alternatively stated, the EEOC investigated at least 800 more sexual harassment charges since the advent of the #MeToo movement. This is clearly significant.

The EEOC release also states two other significant findings. First, consistent with the EEOC’s statement that the agency would be filing more lawsuits on behalf of victims, the report states that the number of lawsuits indeed rose by 11 (a 50% increase). This is significant because it means the EEOC is investing key resources into prosecuting cases as well as investigating them, which spells a new type of trouble for employers of all sizes. The EEOC also reports that it recovered $70 million for victims of harassment through its enforcement and litigation procedures. This was up from $47.5 million in fiscal 2017.

The EEOC also reports that it recovered $70 million for victims of harassment through its enforcement and litigation procedures.

The significance of this document cannot be understated, not just in the shocking increase in numbers, but also the EEOC’s new method of promoting its efforts to investigate, stop, and punish those employers who allow incidents to occur. It will not only be interesting to see if 2018 is an outlier (or more likely) the start of a trend. In either event, employers should be more interested than ever in making sure their employees receive the proper training to prevent incidents of sexual 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.


New Delaware Sexual Harassment Law Requires Training

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On August 29, 2018 Delaware became the latest state to enact legislation requiring employers to train employees on the prevention of sexual harassment when Governor John Carney signed SB 360 into law. Like California’s AB1825, SB 360 requires larger employers (those employing over 50 employees) to provide training on the prevention of sexual harassment. This law goes into effect on January 1, 2019 and the training must be complete by January 1, 2020.

Although it seems as if every state in the country is requiring employers to train their employees on this very important topic, SB360 makes Delaware just the fifth state to mandate employers to train employees on the prevention of sexual harassment. On January 1, Delaware will join Maine, Connecticut, California and New York in a growing list of states with mandatory training legislation.

Delaware Requirements

Employers employing 50 or more employees in Delaware must meet the following requirements set forth by SB 360 elements: 

  1. Employees must be provided with interactive training on the prevention of sexual harassment.
  2. Training must be conducted for new employees within one year of the commencement of their employment. Importantly, existing employees must receive training by no later than January 1, 2020.
  3. Topics covered include the following:
    a. The illegality of sexual harassment
    b. A specific definition of sexual harassment (with examples)
    c. A description of legal remedies available to employees and the complaint process (both internally and externally)
    d. Instruction on how to contact the Delaware Department of Labor; and
    e. Instruction that retaliation is prohibited
  4. According to SB 360, new supervisors must receive additional training within one year of the commencement of their supervisory role, and that supplementary training must cover the specific responsibilities of a manager in sexual harassment prevention and the illegality of retaliation.
  5. Finally, employee and supervisor training programs must be repeated every two years.


Syntrio Response

As always, Syntrio is well ahead of the curve in its response to the new Delaware law. Indeed, we have already begun the framework of our Delaware sexual harassment prevention courses for managers and employees, and will have these courses available to customers well in advance of the date the law goes into effect. You can expect to demonstrate the new Delaware courseware sometime in the coming months. As always, keep a close eye on Syntrio’s blog for updates on news and legislation that is relevant to human resources, employment law and ethical compliance issues. We very much look forward to being your trusted source in the provision of Delaware Sexual Harassment Training.

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, wage and hour, 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

 

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New York State Sexual Harassment Law Set to Take Effect October 9, 2018

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In April 2018 New York State and New York City enacted sweeping changes to sexual harassment laws in New York. The changes were enacted in response to the #MeToo movement and came with a variety of questions for employers throughout the state.

New York State employers with 15 or more employees required to train all employees.

In a landmark change, New York became the largest state to require employers employing 15 or more persons to train all employees annually on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. Among the requirements of the New York State and New York City sexual harassment laws, training programs must include the following key elements: 

  • A detailed explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment at work under New York State and New York City law
  • Examples of conduct that constitutes the sexual harassment under the unique approach taken by New York City
  • Information on New York State, New York City and federal laws concerning sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims
  • Making available information about employees’ rights to adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment both administratively and judicially and the forums in which to do so
  • Contact information for New York State, New York City, and federal equal employment agencies
  • Interactivity in training

Training developed for both managers and employees

In response to the New York City sexual harassment law and New York State sexual harassment laws, Syntrio developed an industry-leading New York Sexual Harassment training course for managers and a matching New York Sexual Harassment training course for non-managerial employees. Both courses are designed to educate employees on New York State and New York City sexual harassment laws (as well as the federal law), as well as company policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

Syntrio’s New York sexual harassment training courses use engaging and entertaining hypothetical scenarios and real-life examples, as well as a narrative based interactive video storyline that provides practical guidance on not just the steps to be taken to prevent sexual harassment in New York workplaces, but also retaliation. The courses take the users through the process of filing a complaint, address bystander intervention, and provide guidance on how to recognize and address sexual harassment in the workplace if it occurs.

Syntrio cordially invites you to learn more about its New York State and New York City sexual harassment courses and to contact us or by telephone at (888-289-6670).

 

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, wage and hour, 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

 

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