Every worker, whether male or female, is entitled to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment. Over the past several months, we have been an eyewitness to the many brave individuals who have come forward with substantiated claims of sexual harassment against individuals who have now been identified as serial sexual predators as well as public figures that were once held in high regard for their purported integrity. With the #metoo movement shedding a bright light upon this horrific behavior, it is imperative that employers — including labor unions — establish the best practices to ensure that their work places and offices are free from sexual harassment.
As we prepare to enter 2018, it should be everyone’s commitment to provide a work place that supports workers and provides the mechanism necessary in order to allow harassed employees to feel confident that their complaints will be heard and properly addressed. The first step in this process is for every employer to issue a policy statement that clearly states that it will not tolerate harassment based upon one’s sex. In order to convey the seriousness of this prohibition, the policy statement must be applicable to all employees (regardless of their title), encourage the victims of harassment to report the harasser before the conduct becomes severe or pervasive, and affirmatively state that the employer will stop the unwanted behavior. Such a formal policy should be posted and distributed to all employees.
Beyond the formality of a policy statement, employees must be witnesses to the actions of their supervisors and co-employees that evidence the intent of their employers to provide a work environment in which the skills of employees will thrive. In order to achieve this goal, these simple rules should become part of the day-to-day operations of every office:
- Treat all employees equally.
- Run a professional office that is free from crude jokes and comments.
- Do not use language or send emails or texts that are sexual in nature — if you would not be comfortable having your mother hear or read it, then don’t say or write it.
- Take all complaints of harassment seriously and investigate them thoroughly. When necessary engage professionals to assist in the process.
- Finally, remember that emails, texts and internal documents are subject to discovery in a legal proceeding so keep all communications professional.
In light of the events of 2017, one’s success in 2018 will be partially measured by the manner in which work places are organized and operated. Happy New Year!