Managing Misconduct in the Workplace

Today's workplace culture looks very different than a generation - or even a decade - ago. More specifically, recent movements like the #MeToo movement have put a spotlight on illegal sexual harassment and misconduct, causing many companies to reevaluate their approach to such complaints.

Nike is the latest company to respond to allegations of widespread misconduct in the workplace, as well as complaints that leadership in the massive corporation failed to take the situation seriously. Recently, the company's CEO made a public apology to employees in an all-staff meeting.

Responding to similar situations

Most companies are smaller than Nike, and they don't have the same level of international brand recognition that the company has. As such, it may not be necessary or wise to respond to similar situations in a similar manner.

The way company leaders respond to similar situations will depend largely on the business itself and the allegations involved. In some cases, it may make sense to release a public statement about a situation and take aggressive steps to make changes. In other cases, dealing directly with employees and managers to enforce existing rules could be just as (or more) effective.

Resetting expectations in the workplace

No matter how a company ultimately responds to this type of situation, it can be vital to reassess and reset expectations in the workplace in light of harassment allegations.

Review harassment policies and consider making changes that reinforce the message that such conduct is not appropriate. For example, employers should make its employees fully aware that statements, no matter how innocent (or even jokingly) that relate to race, religion, sex or sexual orientation are inherently suspect, much less any physical touching or invading a colleague's personal space, all of which are prohibited in the workplace. Employers must create (or strengthen) procedures that ensure employees can file complaints, as well as specific methods for investigating and responding to each complaint.

Employers have a responsibility to protect workers from harassment and other type of misconduct in the workplace. Those who fail to do this can face serious legal penalties and public backlash.

To protect your company and your employees, you can discuss any issues related to harassment in the workplace with an experienced attorney. With legal guidance, you can be confident that you have proper channels in place to respond to - and hopefully avoid - situations involving widespread workplace harassment.

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