Harassment in the Workplace

Every day brings more news of major figures in politics, journalism, business and the entertainment industry being accused of some of the grossest forms of sexual harassment.  A partial list includes movie producer Harvey Weinstein, NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer, CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose, comedian Louis CK, Senator Al Franken, Congressman John Conyers, Senate candidate Roy Moore, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, conductor James Levine, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, music producer Russell Simmons, actor Kevin Spacey, NBC News journalist Mark Halperin, New Orleans chef John Besh, New York Times political correspondent Glenn Thrush, and public radio personality Garrison Keillor.

In several of these cases, the figure’s employer either knew or should have known of these allegations, many of which span several years and sometimes even decades.  Harvey Weinstein’s predilection for sexual harassment was so well-known that his 2015 employment agreement with The Weinstein Company provides that if Weinstein “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct,” he must reimburse the company for any settlements or judgments it must pay out because of such conduct.  He is also required to pay the company “liquidated damages of $250,000 for first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance and $1,000, 000 for each additional instance.”  And, as astounding as Weinstein’s contract seems, Fox News signed a new contract with Bill O’Reilly in 2016 after he paid $32 million to settle sexual harassment claims against him.  The $32 million settlement was O’Reilly’s sixth such settlement.

In order to be effective, workplace anti-harassment policies must be implemented as part of a company-wide strategy to prevent harassment.  Anti-harassment training is an important element of such implementation but it cannot occur in a vacuum. Company leaders must model the behavior they wish to re-enforce, including by endorsing and attending anti-harassment training.

The Labor & Employment Law Section of Burch, Porter & Johnson, PLLC has a proven track record of working with employers of all sizes and training employees at all levels on anti-harassment policies using real life examples, practical advice, and straightforward language that keeps employees’ attention and helps them take away key concepts that will have an impact on the workplace.

How long has it been since your company did comprehensive anti-harassment training of your work force?  If you don’t want to be the next company in the limelight (or paying a large settlement) because of misbehaving employees, put harassment training on your list of things to do in the New Year.

How can the Burch, Porter & Johnson Labor & Employment Group Help You?
Protect your company and your employees. Call us today to evaluate your workplace policies and discuss potential training needs. You can reach our attorneys by calling 901-524-5000.