Shocker! New Study Says Company’s Culture Biggest Determinant of Sexual Harassment

The Huffington Post reported recently on a new study that noted that “When sexual harassment happens, it’s easy ― and not wrong ― to blame individual perpetrators, i.e., the ‘bad men.’”

Quite true.

So, given the tenor of that quote, who then (or what) is really to blame (he asks knowingly)?

Why … it’s … the … CORPORATE CULTURE.

No surprise to anyone who reads our blog. We’ve been exhorting employers for years that the corporate culture is all-important in setting an ethical and legal tone, and that top-down compliance with anti-harassment laws is a must.

But back to the new study.

In an article by Emily Peck entitled “Want To End Sexual Harassment? Landmark Study Finds Ousting ‘Bad Men’ Isn’t Enough,” a major study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering was cited which said that “the strongest, most potent predictor of sexual harassment is essentially the culture of the company ― what the researchers call ‘organizational climate.’”

So we were right all these years. It’s the corporate culture.



“If employees believe that their organization takes harassment seriously,” notes the study, “then harassment is less likely to happen. … That faith in fair treatment acts as a deterrent against bad actors and encourages workers to speak up about harassment ― key to keeping bad behavior at bay.”

“It’s not about rooting out the bad apples; we need to focus on the whole barrel,” said a professor who is one of 21 experts who authored the report. “When organizations really cultivate a climate that makes clear it will not tolerate sex harassment, employees are much less likely to engage in sexual harassment,” she said.


Well, call it “I told you so” (never!) or call it “it seems so obvious” (to us, at least), but Amy and I have been preaching “top down” zero-tolerance as it relates to harassment for … I’ve been doing this for only forty years so it’s not quite that long – but close.

The report itself “identifies and analyzes the policies, strategies and practices that have been the most successful in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in these settings” before coming to its inexorable conclusion.

So save yourself some time, and get all the news before your friends – read our blog!!


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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]