Company Culture, #MeToo and Anti-Harassment Programs

by Michael Volkov

Companies do not operate in a vacuum.  As we know, companies are part of our social fabric and are subject to the same influences as our communities, politics and families.

To say that the MeToo movement has had an impact on corporate cultures, is to offer yet another profound grasp of the obvious.  The MeToo movement’s impact is much more than raising awareness of sexual assault and harassment and increasing reporting of such conduct  The MeToo movement represents a sea-change in our culture, unmasking horrible conduct and treatment of individuals, and creating opportunities for real change in organizations.    A company’s culture has and will continue to adjust to this important change in our society.

There are certain basic steps that companies have to take in its management and oversight of its workforce.  At the outset, most (if not all) companies have experienced a significant increase in the reporting of harassment conduct.  This is a welcome development that can be used as an opportunity to improve employee morale, increase trust in the company’s reporting, investigation and disciplinary system, and enhance employee productivity.  Companies will be tested in this area and they need to respond with robust enforcement, investigation, remediation programs to protect the safety of its employee from illegal harassment.

To confirm this trend, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported a steady increase in harassment claims over the last three years.  If companies have not seen the same increase, compliance and human resources need to investigate and determine why this same trend has not occurred in the company.

Companies have to do more than just react.  A joint and united effort involving the board, CEO, senior management, Human Resources, Compliance, Legal, and other functions has to address on a proactive basis how to identify inappropriate behavior, recast their policies and procedures, and conduct training and workshops to increase sensitivity, awareness and prevention of harmful behaviors.

Companies are subject to a number of enforcement risks in this area, including Title VII private actions, EEOC enforcement, state and local fair employment agencies, and federal contractor enforcement actions by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

There are a number of actions that companies have to take to prevent improper conduct, including:

Revision and updating of company’s anti-harassment policies and procedures.  These policies should be updated to reflect current norms.  Harassment should be defined to include unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran’s status or genetic information.  Prohibited harassment includes situations where enduring unwelcome conduct becomes a condition of employment, or the conduct creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, uncomfortable or abusive.  Unwelcome conduct can take many forms, including but not limited to inappropriate touching and offensive comments or jokes referencing slurs, name calling, physical threats, insults and use of pictures or objects.

A company’s anti-harassment policy and procedures should be broader than federal law’s definition and list of protected classes.  While this may be seen as a legal risk, a company has to embrace the full scope of anti-harassment enforcement to send an important message – the company is committed to creating a positive and healthy workplace.

The company has to disseminate its policies throughout the company in as many ways as possible – using regular communications to reinforce the policy and making the policies available on the intranet.  The policies should be posted in all common areas in the company.

The board, CEO and senior leadership have to reiterate the importance of protecting the company’s workplace, set a positive example in treating others on the job, and interacting with employees in a positive and respectful manner.

Anti-harassment training should be robust and used as an opportunity to reinforce the company’s zero tolerance policy towards harassment.  The board, CEO and senior management should attend the training first followed by other managers and employees.

A clear message should be sent on holding managers accountable throughout the company.  Employee evaluations should include responsibilities for protecting and promoting and safe and harassment-free environment.

If violations occur, the disciplinary actions should be swift, fair and consistent across the organization.  The commitment to aggressive enforcement should be clear and communicated prior to implementing such a policy.  Zero tolerance has to mean zero tolerance even when top performers in the organization violate the company’s policy.

Last but certainly not least, a company has to develop effective monitoring and data collection programs to identify reported violations, employee concerns, investigations, and disciplinary actions.  The measurement of such conduct is critical to refining proactive strategies, identifying problem actors and areas before they become even more harmful, and building a culture of trust between employees and management.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Michael Volkov, The Volkov Law Group | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Michael Volkov

The Volkov Law Group on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.