Monday, October 9, 2017

What to do when your Harvey Weinstein harasses your employees

By now you’ve likely heard about the decades of harassment allegations levied against storied Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Over the weekend, his company, the Weinstein Company, fired him.

Will your board have the courage to do the same if your CEO / President / founder engages in the type of misconduct alleged against Harvey Weinstein?

Or, let me ask this question another way.

If the buck stopped with Harvey Weinstein, to whom could an employee complain about his harassing behavior? What do you do when harassment reaches the highest levels of your organization?

Let me offer a few suggestions:
  1. Any harassment policy must have more than one avenue available for an employee to complain, such as different people across different department.
  2. Additionally, employees should not be limited to complaining in person. Employees should be able to complain in writing, over the phone, or by email.
  3. Consider setting up a telephone or email hotline to log complaints.
  4. The owner, CEO, or other higher-up should be screened-off from any investigation, other than his or her investigatory interview.
  5. Ensure that the company does not retaliate against the complaining employee.

Any anti-harassment program, however, will not be worth the paper on which it’s written unless the company has a culture that abhors harassment. In other words, an employer must take all complaints seriously. Taking complaints seriously includes ensuring that all employees understand the harassment policy, that employees have more than one avenue to make complaints, that investigators are properly trained, and that the company regularly reviews its policies and procedures for compliance and effectiveness. No anti-harassment program is perfect, but you must have one that’s effective. Otherwise, no matter where the he-said/she-said pendulum swings, you will start every harassment case at a disadvantage.