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Sexual Harassment, Holiday Parties, Handbooks, and other End-of-Year Musings

I do not think a day has passed since Harvey Weinstein’s ouster that we don’t learn about a new public figure-newscaster-actor-politician-other notable name who has been accused of sexual harassment (or similar behavior) and lost his job.  Today, I woke to news of Matt Lauer’s termination from NBC.  A few moments ago I received an email advising that Garrison Keillor has been accused of inappropriate behavior and that Minnesota Public Radio will be cutting its ties with Keillor completely.

Normally, management employment attorneys counsel their clients not to disclose or discuss the employment decisions of its employees nor the reasons behind those decisions.  For a variety of reasons, it is understandable why there has been this “Hollywood disclosure” exception to that rule.  That said, for the vast majority employers faced with investigating and resolving workplace harassment complaints, public pronouncements are not wise.  It remains far more prudent to properly and promptly investigate, take remedial action, and keep discussion and disclosure of the final decisions limited to those management officials who have a legitimate need-to-know.  If you are an employer representative reading this blog, assume press releases are not prudent.

On a loosely related note, workplace holiday parties are being scheduled and planned.  Employers are reminded that workplace rules and expectations do not go out the window simply because the event is after hours, off-site, and/or fueled by holiday libations.  Given the current intensified climate of inappropriate behavior reporting, employers are strongly encouraged to remind employees that holiday parties are no reason or excuse to engage in behavior that would be inappropriate during the regular work day.  Make sure any allegations of wrongdoing are handled with equal force.

I’ll finish out this post with another questionable segue: the end of year provides employers with a timely opportunity to do an assessment of various documents to ensure that things are properly in place for the upcoming year.  Consider if your handbook needs to be reviewed and updated (usually every 2 years).  If your social media policy still refers to MySpace, it may be time for an update.  Are all I-9s current and supported with valid, unexpired documentation?  When was the last time your written job descriptions were examined for accuracy?  Are the protocols in place for wage and hour adjustments relevant, including bonus decisions?  December always seems to pass by quickly.  2018 will be here before we know it.

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