The recent national spotlight on accused sexual harassers andthe widespread #MeToo social movement have sent companies scrambling for advice on how to address theimbalance of power that protects workplace abusers.

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Big names—Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes,Charlie Rose and others—are dominating the headlines after womenstepped forward with claims that in some instances go back decades.The U.S. Congress has looked into its own practices. No industry orgovernment body appears to be immune.

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How can companies make sure they have sexual harassment policies in place to protectinterests and employees? We talked to several attorneys aboutcommon pitfalls and the lay of the land in the corporateenvironment right now. Here are highlights from thoseconversations.

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Beware of protecting the alleged “super star”harasser

Harvey Weinstein was the face of his film company and BillO’Reilly was one of Fox network’s most popular hosts. Reportsof alleged sexual harassment sometimes can affect financialdecisions, and that exacerbates the problem and creates a cultureof feature, said Debra Katz, partner at Katz, Marshall & Banksand Amy Bess, shareholder at Vedder Price, during a webinar for thePractising Law Institute.

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In a June 2016 report, the U.S. EqualEmployment Opportunity Commission highlighted this problem.Organizations are sometimes willing to ignore bad behavior out offear that losing the harasser would be too costly to the company.Companies should instead act evenly and fairly, addressing thecomplaint to avoid retaining toxic employees and providing a safeculture.

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“Think of anyone in the company who is the high earner, therainmaker, the prestigious surgeon or professor,” Katz said. “Byvirtue of that status there is a certain privilege—a view thatthose individuals are above the rules. That feeling of privilegeand being indispensable allows people to abuse theirauthority.”

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Bess said the EEOC found that companies did a cost-benefitanalysis to come to the “knee-jerk conclusion” that keeping aharasser in place is better for the brand or the business. “Theyend up making a decision based on economics or perceived economicsthat keeping that person around is the better option,” Bess said.She cited a study by Harvard Business School,however, that found retaining toxic employees is a net negative.Katz said there are indirect costs that are difficult to identify,but additionally there is a huge legal risk of a serialharasser.

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O’Reilly and Weinstein have both denied various allegationsagainst them, and O’Reilly recently called reports about allegedmisconduct as being part of a “smear” campaign against him.

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Be careful what you ask employees to sign

In the wake of the scandals, nondisclosure agreements that could potentiallysilence women from outing their accusers have come into theforefront. Greta Van Susteren called such an agreement a silencer of victims. Manyof Weinstein’s victims signed such documents.

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The best practice, however, may not necessarily be to eliminateall settlement agreements, said Katz, who represents employees inharassment and retaliation cases. They can be useful for thevictim in protecting their reputation and a good bargaining tool.Katz said she would not advise including language in an agreementor settlement that indicates a victim cannot be part of an EEOCclaim or go to law enforcement.

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The National Labor Relations Act and Title VII also invalidateagreements that limit workers discussing workplace conditions andcharges of discrimination. Nondisclosure agreements can be used toprotect employers’ intellectual property and other trade secretsbut should not be used to keep victims from reporting illegalactivity. “These agreements can further the imbalance of power andallow the abuse to go on for decades and decades,” Katz said.“Lawyers need to look critically when they facilitate these kind ofagreements.”

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Confusion about the arbitration process is creatingmisperceptions about how these agreements affect sexual harassmentclaims, according to Scott Fanning, an associate at Fisher &Phillips in Chicago who represents employers in sexual harassmentcases. He said arbitration clauses do not necessarily have tosilence victims. The private nature of settlements could provide aforum that encourages women to make claims, he said, rather than apublic pleading in court. He also stressed that employees areentitled to file with agencies such as the EEOC.

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Victims need many ways to report; put policies inplace

The costs of sexual harassment can include millions of dollarsin settlements, low employee morale, high-job turnover, increasedsick leave, decreased productivity and reputational loss, said MarkHanley, a partner and labor and employment attorney in the Tampaoffice of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.

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“Among employer best practices are a zero-tolerance policy—tostart, a written sexual harassment policy, proper training ofmanagement and employees on that policy upon hire and at leastevery year thereafter, prompt and thorough investigations ofallegations, and prompt and effective remedial action based oninvestigations,” Hanley said.

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Corporate policies need to be drafted and designed to focus ontwo basic components: educating employees about what their rightsare in the workplace and defining what is and isn’t prohibitedconduct, said Pat Lundvall, a partner at McDonald Carano in Nevadaand chair of the firm’s employment and labor group. There should bemany ways, and clear ways, that an employee can report harassment.“These policies should be designed in a way to empower theemployee, so that they can do something about it,” Lundvall said.“Rather than quitting or suffering in silence, just thinking that’spart of their workplace and they have to do something about it.Policies are designed around education.”

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There needs to be a process to allow employees to complain. “Anemployer may wave paper around but they need to practice what theyput on paper,” she said. “You have to enforce that policy and giveit teeth.”

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The board can’t shirk responsibility

What is the appropriate response of the board of directors whena single executive is accused multiple times of harassment? Asimple slap on the wrist could help foster the culture where itappears harassment is protected.

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In the case of Weinstein, for example, Katz said, “the idea thatthe board did not know or have reason to suspect is absurd,” giventhe Hollywood producer’s behavior was apparently the worst keptsecret in Hollywood. Bess and Katz said that a board of directorshas a fiduciary duty to not cover up the mess in these cases. “Theydo so at great risk,” Katz said.

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Further down the chain, human resources departments also havethe duty to investigate rumors and gossip about harassers, Besssaid. Across the company, policies should be put in place that donot shift the burden but eradicate behavior. The board cannot beabsolved of responsibility, Katz said. They also have the duty toreport sexual harassment to the U.S. Securities and ExchangeCommission.

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Response is key—how to react and notoverreact

A company should have a policy in place laying out how to reactin the instance of sexual harassment. This includes not reactingwithout investigating the claim. Lundvall of McDonald Carano saidcomplaints shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value. Thereneeds to be a mechanism to investigate claims. There also needs tobe a clear way forward if the complaint it valid on how toremediate.

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Bess said companies have been reactive—amid the flood ofnational press attention—in terminating workers who were accused ofsexual harassment. She said a prompt and thorough investigation,rather, will help eradicate the behavior. Katz agreed. “There is aneed to take a breath and ensure there is due process.” The bottomline, “There has to be robust training at the top level and strongmessages need to be sent that the behavior won’t be tolerated,”Katz said.

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