Case Study: Sexual Harassment Prevention
Yesterday we discussed the importance of actually doing something about the problem of workplace harassment once a company becomes aware that the problem exists in its organization. Although we like to work with companies to ensure they promote a culture of inclusion and positive interaction before there is a problem, we realize this is not always practical. Therefore, today we discuss (with the company’s permission on the condition of anonymity) the past, present and future of sexual harassment prevention.
I was first assigned to “Q-Corp” in 2008 when a partner at my law firm was away on leave. At the time Q-Corp was a prospering company with approximately 150 employees. The executive who contacted me was (like myself) a graduate of a “fun” university where he had been a member of a fraternity and seen enough stories to fill a book. We had a brief conversation, had lunch, and played a round of golf on a Saturday to discuss the problems that were going on within his organization. The executive told me that he had promoted a culture of “work hard play hard,” and that there was a lot of in-dating going on within the office. For example, an administrative assistant was engaged to marry her boss, mailroom filers were sleeping with higher ups at weekly happy hours and drug use was rampant within the company. All that said, things were actually going well, as profits were high, bonuses were good, and the employees enjoyed the benefit of weekly parties and what he thought was a “fun” working environment.
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I explained to my contact that I had seen this type of environment before, and been a part of it myself long before I became an attorney. I warned the executive that maintaining this type of culture is a powder keg ready to explode. After a few conversations, the executive trusted my advice and asked me to develop a plan to make a sea change in the way things were done, starting with formulating a sexual harassment prevention program (my first custom job).
It is very important to understand that harassment prevention programs are not one-size-fits all. In some companies with rigid cultures and strict environments, bland rounds of simple “check the box” training can do the trick. But in most companies there is either a culture of “rowdiness” that is not going to be receptive to that sort of training, or there is going to be resistance to any sort of training at all. With Q-Corp skewing far to the left side of the spectrum I just described, I knew I needed to speak to its employees in a language they would understand. So I devised a presentation that engaged the employees in behavior they had found normal, but changed up the roles somewhat. Within minutes many members of Q-Corp’s staff were offended and outraged at seeing some of the behavior from other points of view.
From there, we developed custom manuals and breakout training sessions, and worked with Q-Corp’s employees to actually teach them that the company had to mature in order to continue its rate of success. Not everyone made it, and the company lost a number of good employees who defected to competing business who maintained a “fun” environment. But Q-Corp survived, and was a success story on making an entire organization aware of the dangers of harassment within the workplace, from the executive level down to the mailroom employees. Although the administrative assistant did marry her boss, this was the last example of a Q-Corp employee dating a supervisor, and to date the company has never faced a harassment lawsuit.
There are a number of important points in the Q-Corp case study that cannot be fleshed out in 700 or so words. For that reason, we invite you to join us in a three-part webinar series on the prevention of sexual harassment in your workplace, which is set to begin on January 23, 2018. Each webinar will be brief, at just 30 minutes in length, and you can be sure to learn tips and tricks that will prepare your company to make positive changes for the future. CLICK THE IMAGE TO REGISTER.
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, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.
Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio