Harvey Weinstein Scandal: Lessons for HR Departments
What are some of the main lessons that all employers can take away from the fallout of sexual harassment claims against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein?
First, it’s not enough to have company policies against harassment of any kind – human resource departments need to have the full support of company boards, experts say. This means that board directors themselves have to take more responsibility instilling a zero-tolerance culture from the top-down – and not just quietly dispatching harassment claims using confidentiality agreements, or keeping potential accusers quiet with non-disclosure agreements.
Bottom line: boards need to take real action so that everyone – including those in the C-Suite – knows that harassment simply will not be permitted.
Vault editor Phil Scott writes that it starts with better training and enforcement around harassment in the workplace, and has to include a mechanism where people who are experiencing harassment can come forward without fear of retaliation.
David Southall, an employment law consultant for the U.K. ELAS Group, tells growth.business.co.uk that it’s not sufficient just to have policies in place.
“Thought should be given to how comfortable employees would be raising issues which are potentially career ending, especially if they are made against a person in a powerful position such as Mr. Weinstein,” Southall says. “There needs to be faith in the workforce that if they raise sensitive concerns these will be dealt with in a sensitive and supportive manner.”
Quietly financially settling with the accuser, in return for their commitment to not go public about the harassment “may work once or twice,” he says. But where is becomes a habit, board directors need to look to the cause of the problem and actually deal with it.
Jonathan T. Hyman, a partner with Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland, tells Business Insurance that if board members see large checks going out, “maybe you should ask somebody why we’re cutting so-and-so a $100,000 check — and if you don’t have the answer, maybe you have an obligation to get to the bottom of what’s going on.”
Paul E. Starkman, a member of law firm Clark Hill P.L.C. in Chicago says that board directors and even major shareholders might need additional training about what they themselves should do.
They “need to recognize that this is an issue, and the fact that the person has increased the bottom line and met financial goals does not mean that they’re filling all their responsibilities as leaders, because you cannot have subordinates” in the human resources or legal departments “trying to tell CEOs and owners of companies what they can and cannot do,” Starkman tells Business Insurance.
“They can try, but it’s often a recipe for a quick exit out of the organization, so it has to come from the people who have influence on the top-level decision-makers, and then it needs to be carried through in terms of training and oversight down the organization,” Starkman adds.
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