Top Five Reasons Not To Have An Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy (As Told By An Employer)

Clients don’t always listen to your pearls of wisdom.  Most of the time – but not always.  It’s their business, after all.

A few years ago I had a potential client about three years into building a successful start-up.  But he pushed back hard against my admonition that with his growing business he should have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place – as well as an employee manual, periodic training for managers and employees, an EEO officer, and – eventually – an HR person or department.

Man, Persons, Guys, Group, Google


It is to him that I dedicate this post — or perhaps more importantly, to his employees.

I hope they are all doing well.

Anyway, the following are some of the things he told me as to why my advice was unnecessary, burdensome and old school.

  1. “My employees are just out of college and obviously learned right and wrong there. They’re college grads, for heaven sakes!  If I have such a policy it will mean to them that I don’t trust them to do the right thing, which is not the message I want to give.  Let them be adults and they will act like adults.”  Whew — talk about putting your head in the sand.
  2. “If I have such a policy, I will then need an employee manual, and all the other unprofitable accoutrements of an old school business. Why waste money on problems that don’t exist?”  Read my blog.
  3. “My employees are collegial – and I like that. Makes them more productive.  Some water cooler jokes, or “locker room banter,” is healthy and just a chance for them to release some stress.  No one will take offense, or misinterpret what may simply be a bad, off-color joke.”  Guess he doesn’t really know people or the workplace environment. Or the law.
  4. “Why have a policy when all of my employees know that I don’t like my employees sexually harassing other employees.”  From the top down, I always advise, one should be a model of compliance and anti-harassment behavior.   But sometimes that is not enough.
  5. “If I have such a policy then I will be held to it of there is a claim made – better to have no policy and then if, God forbid, I get a claim, I can always argue that I am not liable since there was no sexual harassment policy that was breached.”  Better to have at least a little understanding of sexual harassment law.

Takeaway:   Why have an anti-sexual harassment policy?  It will never happen to you, of course.

Woman, Hands, Face, Eyes

Bonus:  I just read in the paper this quote from another benighted employer:  “If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce. Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten.”

Bonus takeaway:  You gotta stop watching Mad Men and learn a little about employment law (and decency) if you want to make America great again, Junior.



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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]