On February 22, Stanton Law and the Netherlands American Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a lunch and learn on “The Weinstein Effect: Handling Sexual Harassment Claims.” It was the first event of its kind held at our office, and it was an overall success!
After some networking and lunch, attendees listened to a presentation by five of Stanton Law’s attorneys: Todd Stanton, Manori de Silva, Christine Green, Melissa Malcom, and Elizabeth Sigler.
Todd kicked off the presentation with a brief overview of some common mistakes employers make: misclassification of employees, overtime issues, and keeping poor documentation.
He then handed it off to Manori, who discussed the laws applicable to sexual harassment matters, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as who has to comply with Title VII and who can be held liable for harassment. She was careful to emphasize that social media and the #MeToo movement create social consequences that go beyond legal consequences, and that it’s wise to do more than just “tick off the boxes” for legal compliance.
Next, Christine did a deeper dive into the two types of harassment: “quid pro quo” harassment and hostile work environment harassment. This portion of the presentation led to some good questions and discussion between the panel and the attendees about the ways in which excluding someone, even unintentionally, can create a hostile work environment.
After Christine explained the many ways harassment can present itself in the workplace, Melissa walked the audience through the investigation process—that is, how an employer should handle a report of harassment. She described a few ways in which an investigation could proceed and possible outcomes to the investigation. One of the big takeaways from Melissa’s section was that if an employer is proactive about an investigation, they can manage and control how it proceeds—as opposed to an EEOC investigation, which is run instead by a government agent and can feel invasive.
Associate Elizabeth Sigler was up next. Her focus was on sexual harassment training, which can be an effective way to prevent harassment in the workplace if it’s properly implemented. But, she explained, most conventional training is ineffective because it follows a generic, one-size-fits-all model. In fact, studies have shown that rather than curtailing harassment, conventional training may actually reinforce stereotypes and make harassment worse.
Elizabeth then explained how better training can create a respectful workplace environment and announced that Stanton Law will begin offering a customized sexual harassment training program for clients in a variety of industries. This training will be tailored to each client’s unique needs and help employers establish effective procedures for reporting and investigating harassment.
Manori concluded the panel with a review of what they discussed and a list of first steps for the attendees to take toward creating a better harassment policy for their workplaces. She reiterated that following the bare minimum isn’t enough—employers should set and follow clear standards for appropriate behavior at all levels of employment, and failing to follow-up on reports of harassment could create reputational and PR problems in addition to legal ones.
If you’d like to learn more about this event, schedule a presentation in your office, or have questions about the customized sexual harassment training Stanton Law offers, contact us–we’d love to help you.