Skip Navigation LinksHome | Editors' Blog | Post

Top employment lawyer talks about sexual harassment policies that work

In Part B News this week we talk about sexual harassment policies and procedures for the medical practice in the age of #MeToo. If you want to know more about how to get yours in shape, check out this Q&A with Audrey Mross, a former HR executive turned employment lawyer and partner at the Dallas-based firm Munck Wilson Mandala. 

Are there special challenges in setting up harassment policies and procedures for medical practice?

The federal law that prohibits workplace harassment when it is based on sex or other protected categories (e.g., race, age, religion) draws no distinction between types of workplace.  If you have 15 employees (for at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to you. A medical setting presents unique ways in which harassment can occur, but the employer’s response is the same whether the employees wear a suit or scrubs.

Is setting up these policies and procedures something that can be offloaded to a vendor?

It’s likely the #MeToo movement will cause a lot of individuals to jump in and try to make a buck off of “plug and play” programming to address employers’ concerns. You can judge their competency by asking if their policy/procedure/training complies with state law mandates and if their program will qualify the employer to use the affirmative defense created by the U.S. Supreme Court for certain cases involving supervisory harassment.  If you get a blank stare, keep shopping.  

What common errors do practices make when they set up their own programs?

If you have employees in California, Connecticut or Maine, there is state law which mandates harassment training and identifies the requisite content.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont mandate a written harassment policy and list the required elements. Once you have a policy statement, the next step is to implement a complaint procedure, train someone to properly conduct and document investigations of complaints and conduct employee and manager training in hopes that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

But you are not done. A dusty policy in a notebook that no one reads is almost as bad as having no policy at all. A complaint procedure that begins with “tell your supervisor” is ineffective and a reason to deny the affirmative defense. An inept investigator can make a bad situation worse.  

The most common mistake is assigning administration of this issue to someone unqualified to handle it. Another common mistake occurs when employers buy a harassment training video off the shelf, show it to employees and call it a day.

If you do not have access to a highly qualified human resources pro and/or an attorney who specializes in employment law, find one.

To comment, login here.
Reader Comments (0)


User Name:
Welcome to the new Part B News Online. If you are a returning user having trouble logging in, please click here.
Back to top