By Caveni Wong, Founder and Principal
Yesterday morning I woke up to a cryptic email from the owner of a local business which said:
“As you may know, the media has published and aired articles concerning allegations against me. I vehemently deny the allegations…”
Curious, I Googled the story and discovered that the owner had been accused of sexual harassment by two former employees who claimed that they had been groped and touched without consent, as well as subjected to a “barrage” of crude and sexual comments. Both claimed to have been fired after complaining about the behavior.
The thoughts that ran through my mind were:
There’s no quick fix, but even small companies should start by establishing written standards of behavior that leave little room for interpretation. In the case of sexual harassment, this means more than claiming “we do not tolerate sexual harassment.” It means clearly defining what sexual harassment is and highlighting examples that are relevant to the company. The written standards do not have to be lengthy or elaborate, but should be prescriptive enough to address acceptable behaviors that is expected of employees and owners alike.
As in larger companies, these standards should be communicated, understood, and agreed to by all employees from day one. The company should remind employees regularly of these standards and enforce them consistently if transgressions occur. If the perpetrator happens to be the owner, you can then take a copy of the standards to outside resources to help your case.
What happens if the owner or management of the small company is not interested in establishing such standards? I have no perfect answer as situations differ. If it were me, I’d tackle it myself, get other employees behind me on the effort, then present a draft to the owner/management for review and adoption. Even for someone unfamiliar with ethics and compliance practices, there are tons of resources on the Internet and from one’s social network that can help jumpstart the effort.
There’s no stopping someone who deliberately misbehaves and considers him/herself above the law. But having the right standards could deter misconduct by those who were unclear about acceptable behavior, and make it more difficult for perpetrators to deny that their conduct was wrong.
Email us to learn how Principle Compliance can help your company develop a set of standards that sticks.