The #MeToo, Time's Up, and It's On Us movements are continuing with full momentum, keeping harassment prevention in the forefront. Zero tolerance is the new norm, meaning employers are having their feet held to the fire to ensure employees are interacting respectfully and professionally. Thus far, 32 states have adopted various state-specific versions of harassment prevention laws with New York and California leading the charge in adopting laws that require the most from employers, small and large. These laws are robust and can include training requirements, policy revisions, investigation protocols, and penalties, among other provisions.
It is only a matter of time before other states fall in line with their own state-specific requirements. CAMICO is advising CPA firms to take the time now to review their own firm policies and practices and to adopt stringent protocols that are at least compliant with their state requirements. Be advised, however, that a firm policy is only effective if the firm practice supports the policy and management "walks the talk" and leads by example.
Many firms are looking to professionals in the human resources field to advise on policy language, compliance, record keeping, and training. CAMICO is seeing a positive trend with firms being proactive and demonstrating due diligence in creating a safe work environment. While some states have state-specific requirements, a few of the general must-haves in an anti-harassment policy are:
- A carefully drafted statement showing the firm’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace.
- The definition of those covered by the policy (employees, management, interns, staff working at a client location, etc.).
- Avenues for employees to report inappropriate behavior or concerns. Ideally, there should be more than one avenue for reporting issues.
- An outline of the investigation process, including timelines and expectations.
- A confidentiality statement indicating the need for all involved parties to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible.
- An anti-retaliation statement.
Reduced risk comes from good practices and good intentions reflected in a well-documented policy that is reinforced by the actions of management. Firm management should work with a human resources professional or an employment attorney to:
- review firm practices and behaviors,
- ensure that practices and behaviors are in line with the firm's policy,
- ensure that the firm’s policy is in line with state requirements,
- create or revise policies and training, and
- ensure best practices.
CAMICO makes available to firms that have an Employment Practices Liability insurance policy with CAMICO:
- unlimited telephone and email human resources consulting services and resources, and
- online resources, HR management policies, procedures and forms, employee handbooks, and educational opportunities on HR topics.