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Walk the Compliance Walk in 2018

The New Year is prime time to take a look at your Code of Conduct and compliance policies both to consider whether you are up to date on all applicable requirements, but also so that you are fluent in your own processes and prepared to take prompt and compliant action when issues arise. Those policies likely already include a prohibition against unlawful harassment and a process for employees to report concerns about harassment or other possible misconduct. But policies and procedures aren’t enough without a comprehensive outlook and culture supporting equal employment opportunity. So how will you walk that walk?

The ongoing media attention on sexual harassment presents a challenge to employers across industries and sizes to ensure that they have more than just paper commitments to a harassment-free workplace.  The current climate also provides employers with the opportunity to think more broadly about what kind of company culture brand you want to convey to employees, as well as the public. As you refresh your recollection (as lawyers like to say) of your Code of Conduct and compliance policies, consider:

  • Do you clearly articulate a top-to-bottom commitment to achieving business goals and promoting a productive, positive culture?

  • Do your policies and Code properly reflect your company brand and culture?

  • Is the language of your Code and other compliance policies crafted so that employees understand them as clear and sincere?

  • Do you include and commit to effective and innovative avenues for employees to raise concerns without fear of retaliation?

With confidence in the content of those written commitments, what more will your organization do to demonstrate these commitments? Legal compliance is rooted in preventive practices. It is more important now than ever to conduct harassment prevention training. Consider innovative training platforms with content that is specifically-tailored to your organization and its different employee populations, including training for you Board of Directors and C-Suite executives.  Consider how you can weave your company brand and culture into this training so employees walk away feeling energized, not just about your commitment to anti-harassment initiatives, but about their role in the company.  Also consider whether there are opportunities to take the pulse of your employees on workplace culture concerns and incorporate those concerns into training and other preventive efforts.

If you do receive complaints, your internal investigation processes should be primed and ready to go. The best time to develop these processes are when you are not faced with an actual complaint. This “peace time” provides the opportunity to consider objectively how investigators will be assigned (e.g., HR, inside counsel, outside counsel); forms and other guidance for developing an investigation plan; factors for identifying witnesses; guidelines for investigatory interviews; goals for timelines; requirements for information gathering, review and preservation; and public relations considerations. Ultimately, the investigation will consider whether remedial action is appropriate. Again, here is where you walk the walk. While disciplining the direct actor may remedy the immediate situation, it may not satisfy the Company’s commitment to prevent future harassment. Think of your Code, policies, training and internal investigations practices holistically as they relate to and promote the organization’s EEO culture through the tone and content of employee-facing communications, responsiveness, and leading by example.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Alison Jacobs Wice, Workplace Law, Counsel, Training, Litigation, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal

Alison Jacobs Wice is Principal in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management exclusively in workplace law and related advice, counsel, training and litigation.

Since joining Jackson Lewis in September 2003, and throughout her career, Ms. Wice has represented employers in state and federal trial, appellate and administrative proceedings throughout the United States involving the full spectrum of substantive issues covered by the firm's employment law practice. She provides advice and counsel to corporate clients on a...

860-522-0404
 Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Sarah R. Skubas, Associate, Litigation Attorney, discrimination, harassment
Associate

Sarah R. Skubas is an Associate in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice is focused on employment litigation, preventive counseling and labor relations.

Ms. Skubas defends employers against claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations and state and federal FMLA violations. She also assists employers in providing preventive counseling, preparing employee handbooks and policies and procedures, advising on such personnel matters as hiring and firing, performance management, internal investigations and disability accommodation. Ms. Skubas also conducts employee training seminars and investigations.

In addition to her employment litigation and preventive counseling experience, Ms. Skubas has broad experience in representing employers in labor matters, including negotiations, strikes, unfair labor practice charges and grievance arbitrations. She represents public employers before the State Board of Labor Relations and the State Board of Mediation, as well as private sector employers before the National Labor Relations Board.

860-522-0404