Yes. Even law firms face legitimate sexual (including orientation, identity, pregnancy, race, disability, age, ethnicity, origin, color, and religion) harassment claims. Take simple steps now to be sure your workplace is not a breeding ground for the unfairness, expense, and trouble that harassment causes.
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How’s yours? The EEOC says this is the biggest factor in breeding or preventing harassment.
LEADERSHIP. Self-assess. Ask your executive team to talk about it. Know what goes on in your office. Don’t give mixed signals. Let everyone know your firm does not tolerate harassment. Define it clearly. Lead by example. Learn your biases and eradicate them.
LOOK FOR RISK FACTORS. Are your executives all-male, or all-anything? Might you therefore be blind to some problems? If lots of partners and employees are doing something wrong, is it ok? Is an employee trying to give you a clue that something is amiss? Is there any ‘joking around’ that today is simply inappropriate or too close to the line to accept? What happens on business trips? Are business communications all business, or are they laden with potential claims?
2-CREATE AND MAINTAIN SYSTEMS.
DEDICATE LAW FIRM RESOURCES. You cannot do this in one afternoon. Spend some time and money to create and communicate prevention and enforcement systems. Make the standards and procedures clear to all. Be sure you walk the talk.
TRAINING. Don’t roll out your principles and systems and then figure you’re done. Maintain the drumbeat. Connect your harassment intolerance to requirements of civility in your law firm.
ENCOURAGE REPORTING. Deal with problems early and decisively. Don’t let problems fester. There is a lot of evidence that victims hesitate to report, so let them, and all employees, know it is good to voice concerns. Don’t make them feel bad for speaking up. Ignorance is not bliss.
ACCOUNTABILITY. Make offenders, and those who shelter them or turn a blind eye, accountable.
3-TOLERATION OF HARASSMENT IS BAD BUSINESS.
BAD EMPLOYEES DRIVE OUT GOOD. Who wants to work in an environment where harassment is permitted? Those most likely to leave are your people with the best job options.
CLAIMS ARE DRAINING. Emotionally and financially. Productivity drops.
WORD GETS AROUND. Does your firm need bad publicity? Your chances of hiring great people and being hired by great clients will be reduced.