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Preventing Workplace Harassment: It Takes Many

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 29, 2015 1:59 PM

Last week a panel of experts outlined a multi-pronged attack on what is the latest of a changing national attitude regarding workplace harassment before the EEOC's Select Task Force. It was the second such public meeting of the STF which was announced back in March of 2015.

The EEOC co-chair Chai R. Feldblum expressed the general consensus of the meeting that prophylaxis is better than treatment.

Multi-pronged Approach

The grand takeaway of the meeting was that prevention is better than treating the disease. In that vein, a number of different cultural changes that involved both employers and employees were suggested. One of the less obvious suggestions involved a market based approach to workplace harassment.

Pressure on Buyers

Judge Laura Safer Espinoza who directs the Fair Foods Standards Council presented an approach that would force compliance among farmers and other producers of input goods. Participating buyers would purchase their tomatoes or other vegetables only from buyers who implement a "human rights-based Code of Conduct" that would be audited by the council.

Apparently, this sort of program has seen success in trials. In 2005, McDonald's had been the subject of some embarrassing publicity when the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative wrote a report that highlighted inaction by McDonald's officials in light of potential human rights violations.

Messages to Employers

Workplace harassment attitudes have shifted markedly in recent decades with a number of different statutes that directly address the problem -- the EEOC for one. The recent meeting focusing on the study of harassment in the workplace focused on the company culture of workplace harassment, but employers would do well to pay attention to some of the panelist suggestions. Implementation of some of these changes within a company might well lend some legal protection to the employer who potentially faces accusations of being complicit or negligent in workplace harassment within their own company.

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