A couple of days ago, the New York Times reported about Uber’s sexual harassment woes when one of its engineers, Susan Fowler, blogged (on her personal account) about her sub-par treatment at Uber after she reported sexual harassment claims to the human resources department and they were ignored.
As both Rich and I have said, time and again, a company that fails to promptly and thoroughly investigate a claim of sexual harassment or take corrective action to stop the offensive behavior risks a knock on the door from the EEOC and some serious liability.
While Uber’s chief executive posted a remorseful statement, the fact is that the HR department did not handle Ms. Fowler’s claim in accordance with the law. Fowler said, “Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.”
As I’ve said, most recently here, once an employer knows about discriminatory or harassing conduct, the employer must investigate it and take corrective measures. When I say “employer knows,” I mean the HR department, a supervisor, manager, or any officer or director of the company. You can stay out of the EEOC’s crosshairs by taking some of the steps Rich and I have outlined, such as:
1) Have a clear, no-tolerance sexual harassment policy set forth in your employee manuals and handbooks; ensure it is disseminated throughout your company and understood;
2) Have a specific procedure for investigating any claims of sexual harassment and follow it, documenting the process along the way;
3) Train your employees, human resources personnel, and executives about EEO policies and laws. But remember, as Rich has said, training alone “cannot change a workplace culture in which sexual harassment is tolerated — or ignored.” Remember “top down” culture of respect? “Zero tolerance?”
4) Encourage reporting of sexual harassment and convey that your company would not retaliate (i.e., take an adverse action) in any way against any person who reported sexual harassment; and
5) Document extensively any employee’s claim of sexual harassment or sex discrimination as well as the steps you take to stop and prevent it.
Employer Takeaway – An Ode
Anyway, Susan Fowler’s post inspired me to poetry:
Uber, I really like that you come when I call,
But it’s clear you’re not reading our blogs at all.
When an employee claims that she’s been sexually harassed,
Promptly investigate, and take corrective action – don’t do it half-assed.