Friday, February 9, 2018

#MeToo Focus in the Caribbean

The morning after a day in Jamaica starts off with a bang in Julie Pugh's session covering Harassment in the Headlines most recently refenced by hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp.  Her session was titled Have Your Life Jacket Handy: The HR Professional's Role in Addressing Pre-Lawsuit Procedures. Whew! That's a mouthful! However, being prepared is a big deal and deserves our attention, understanding, and consideration to avoid a mouthful of curse words (quietly of course) when you get handed your first EEOC complaint or lawsuit.  Believe me, they are not fun to deal with!

I have personally had my share of harassment (especially sexual) complaints during my tenure in HR.  So far this year, I have delivered a couple of programs as well as conducted a couple of investigation and it's only February! The stories I could tell would make you wonder what type of work is actually being done in the workplace.  Matter of fact, I shared one of them in the session that helped Julie make her point about other types of complaints you can get besides harassment.  The one I shared was constructive discharge and sexual harassment. 

What I found new and interesting in this session is to look at documentation related to the topic and remove things like the word "confidential". For example: Don't tell employees in person or in harassment policies that their conversation or complaint will remain confidential.  Why? Because it won't! You can't keep it confidential.  Again, why? Because you may have to conduct interviews, talk to management, attorney's, etc.

So, what can you say or write instead on using the word confidential?
      • Say we will be "discreet", or
      • We will only share on a "need to know basis"
In addition, Julie mentioned an example of a time she was conducting training when someone in the room asked for a definition of an inappropriate behavior.  She redirected the question to make a point about how managers need to be constantly vigilant about what is discussed in the workplace while another manager got up and demonstrated the inappropriate behavior in front of the whole group.  She politely took the person to the side to have a private conversation about how inappropriate her demonstration was and how that type of reaction and attitude is exactly what they are trying to avoid in the workplace.  I can't tell you how many times employees and managers have taken pot shots at some of the main points of a harassment awareness training I was conducting.  What a great lesson on how to deal with those outbursts. 

Constant vigilance and awareness of surroundings was a key suggestions Julie shared.  As an example: she mentioned the timely resignation of Steve Wynn, Chairman & CEO, of Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macua due to sexual misconduct allegations he denies.  This occurred after we set sail from Fort Lauderdale.  It seems something about this topic is coming out weekly these days.  It's sad that it's not a surprise.  

Continue to educate staff and management about the importance of this topic from a risk management standpoint.  Most importantly, prevention is key and communication is key to prevention.

Finally, I should mention that Julie's employer where she is Partner, Graydon was one of the sponsors for #HRCruise2018 - thank you Graydon & Julie!


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