1. Sexual harassment is a C-suite and board-level issue. As an ounce of prevention, order an audit of every case currently under investigation and every case that’s been reported over the previous five to ten years.
2. Review previously disposed cases under the lens of today’s news. Hand over ongoing cases to a law firm for investigation, and secure crisis management counseling.
3. Any time it is determined that real offenses have taken place, fire the perpetrator immediately — or put him on leave, then fire him. Act swiftly and definitively. Actions speak louder than words.
4. Take every allegation seriously. Do not reflexively blame the victim. Empathize (during the investigation), apologize (if the accusation has merit), and remediate ($$$).
5. Make it explicit in the hiring code that harassment will not be tolerated. Then apply the rule consistently and fairly to all employees, from the cleaning staff to the CEO.
6. Establish and publicize a hotline for reporting any kind of sexually inappropriate behavior. Hire an independent service to monitor it.
7. Most trainings are baloney. Is yours? Stress across the entire company that nobody should do anything they wouldn’t want to see blasted on Twitter or Facebook today — or five years from now. Employees tend to scoff at sensitivity training but understand the ubiquity of social media.
8. Do background checks on all potential employees who were “let go” from previous jobs. Hire an investigator. Harassment is a recidivist behavioral trait.
9. Human resources departments need to reconsider their position in their organizations. Yes, they represent management, but embracing the role of employee advocate will, in the long run, benefit all.
10. To the greatest extent possible, push for additional female board directors. They will make it their mission to see that the companies they represent maintain a code of workplace ethics and decency befitting 21st-century organizations.
Read more about what Institutional Investor’s Mary Lowengard says is the next big crisis that will be keeping investor relations officers awake at night, in Nightmare on Investor Relations Street.