But, Eric, shouldn’t we update our anti-harassment policies in 2018 also?

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Yes and, after yesterday, this deserves its own post.

Where should I begin? How about with the great Jonathan Segal who saves me a lot of work with his post for the SHRM Blog entitled “5 Effective Ways to Upgrade Your Anti-Harassment Policy.” Let’s see if I can summarize my buddy’s wisdom without liberally plagiarizing quoting his blog post:

  1. There’s more to the anti-harassment policy than just sexual harassment. I think most of you have this covered already. But just in case, remember that there are several other protected-class boxes that one of your former employees can check when filing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination. Make sure that your policy addresses all of ’em.
  2. But, do focus on sexual harassment. Examples are good (e.g., “sleep with me or you’re fired” and inappropriate touching). But, don’t forget other types of sex discrimination claims such as bias based on pregnancy and sexual orientation.
  3. Your employees probably aren’t lawyers. Don’t use legalese. And even if they are lawyers, skip the legal definitions.
  4. Do better than what the law says you should be doing. For example, by law, a hostile work environment requires behavior that is either severe or pervasive. Yet, on the rarest occasions, a single incident actually creates a hostile work environment. So, should you wait for bad behavior to repeat itself in your workplace, it should you nip it in the bud? Exactly.
  5. Go beyond 9-5. Think 24/7. Better yet, think about social media and other forms of employee engagement that happen outside of work but could nonetheless impact the workplace. If my 9-5 employee discriminates against a co-worker on Facebook at 10 pm, but the co-worker reads the Facebook post in work the following day, that’s workplace problem. If an employee tweets about a #metoo situation at work involving sexual harassment and a supervisor retweet it, that’s a workplace problem. Consider also, company-sponsored events, vendor behavior, etc.

But, if you think a policy update alone is proactive enough to solve all of your problems, well… May I suggest some training too? Consider the following:

  • For the C-Suite, hey, if you don’t think the time is right to train them, I can’t help you.
  • As more employees begin to report sexual harassment, do you trust your managers to respond appropriately (especially, when an employee asks a manager to be a confidant)?
  • How many of your employees appreciate the 24/7 world of social media and the impact it can have on their jobs. Raise your hands if you’re not clutching your pearls.
  • And you too, HR. How comfortable are you investigating complaints of harassment? A little training could go a long way.

To help you along, don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to the greatest employment-law webinar of all time. And, if you can’t make it, mark your calendars for January 11 at 2 pm EST. My good friend Heather Bussing and I will be offering another webinar focused specifically on sexual harassment and ways that your organization can navigate these choppy waters in which we find ourselves. Details to be provided.

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