Hi, and Let’s Get Down to it...!

With this inaugural edition of Employment Awareness I get to do a couple of things that really excite me: First, let me introduce myself. I’m John Cone and I’ve been practicing employment law for over 30 years. I’m passionate about working with employers and helping them navigate the employment law minefield; not just to avoid litigation and regulatory risks, but because good HR practices make for better employee relationships – and better employee relations make organizations more profitable.

I’ve known and worked with the attorneys at Hall Huguenin for many years. They are among the finest lawyers anywhere. So you can imagine how honored I am to lead their newly-created Labor & Employment Department. The firm is committed to provide you with the best legal and practical counsel and guidance possible.

Second, we intend to make Employment Awareness something more than just another email to clog your In-box. The attorneys who staff this department will share thoughts, ideas and analysis of timely developments right out of the Legislature and courts, along with discussion of lessons we’ve learned in the legal trenches. From time-to-time we will tap into our friends and colleagues in the HR world to weigh in on critical issues. Our objective is to share practical information that will make us all more informed and aware. Thanks for giving us a try, and let us know how we’re doing!

Here’s this month’s topic...

Workplace Sexual Harassment – We owe it to everyone to STOP IT NOW!!

The media outrage of the moment, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, is the apparent epidemic of sexual harassment in the workplace. While this uproar is undeniably appropriate, it also has the ring of the rather disingenuous line from Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!” The media suggests that workplace sexual harassment was a dirty little secret, but those of us who are employment attorneys and HR professionals know this was no secret – never has been.

As employment professionals, our jobs often require us to defend against harassment claims, particularly opportunistic money-grabs. But it is even more important to create an enlightened, proactive company culture that makes it unnecessary for aggrieved employees to resort to the courts. Although I am often highly critical of the way California overregulates employers, this may be one area where the Legislature is onto something. In working toward our goal to eliminate sexual harassment, employers would be well-served by simply doing what the law requires, including the following:

  • If the employer has 50 or more employees, it must provide supervisors at least two hours of qualified classroom or similar interactive training every two years on the prevention and correction of sexual harassment. New supervisors must receive this training within six months after their start date.
  • The employer must provide its employees with a written sexual harassment policy that is discussed regularly at meetings.
  • In the event of an incident of sexual harassment, an employer must conduct a prompt and fair investigation, followed by a prompt and fair remedy.

While California’s regulations are extensive (perhaps unduly so), employers should heed the key admonition from the agency charged with enforcement of these regulations: “Buy in from the top. This means that management is a role model of appropriate workplace behavior, understands the policies, walks the walk and talks the talk.” Ultimately, good management requires treating each other with dignity and decorum – it’s good for our employees and it’s good for our bottom line.


John A Cone, Jr., Hall Griffin, Of Counsel

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