Benefits and Compensation

Hassles: Old—Harassment—and New—Technology

Segal, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Duane Morris LLP offered his tips at the SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition, held recently in Atlanta.

Harassment Remains a Problem

Before 1986, sexual harassment was not recognized. Then came the 1986 Vinson case and the 1991-Hill-Thomas hearings. They raised public awareness on sexual harassment and there was a dramatic increase in sexual harassment claims. Subsequently, there has been an increase in claims of other kinds of harassment, such as race, color and religion.

Harassment prevention is valuable and necessary, but sometimes there’s an overbroad definition of harassment, and sometimes employees claim appropriately managing them is harassing them.

Define harassment broadly but not endlessly, says Segal. If the alleged offense is not harassment but just management, say so and support management.

Also, says Segal, teach safe cross-gender mentoring.

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Hassles of Today’s Technology

We’ve come from letters through fax and email to social media, Segal notes. Here are his social media suggestions.

As for the question of social media background checks, Segal says, the legal worry is finding out demographic information you don’t want, like sex and age. But once you’ve interviewed the person, you pretty much have that data, so the risk of the social media search is reduced.

If you do discover something that leads you to reject a candidate, Segal says, for instance, offensive ethnic jokes or partying and drinking and driving, print out the page and write “bad judgment” on it. (Print it because it might be gone tomorrow.)

Avoid ‘friending,” says Segal, because, again, you’ll find out things you don’t want to know:

  • “The medication is helping.”
  • “I just found out my mother has cancer and her mother died from it.”
  • “I’m being harassed” (and you didn’t read that day)

As for Twitter, find out who’s following you, says Segal. It might be a plaintiffs’ lawyer.

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