The Besh Lesson: Don't wait for it to be front-page news: Take steps now to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
On October 21, The Times-Picayune published an investigative report on its website regarding 25 current and former Besh Restaurant Group ("BRG") employees who said they were victims of sexual harassment while working in BRG business offices or in its restaurants. According to the report, despite a growing number of complaints by employees regarding inappropriate conduct in the workplace, BRG failed to take steps to address the complaints or prevent its employees from being subjected to sexually harassing conduct.
This reported failure has produced not only an embarrassing public relations debacle for BRG, but also economic consequences. Harrah's Casino confirmed that it has ended its business relationship with BRG because of the report, and celebrity chef John Besh stepped down from the restaurant company he founded.
BRG started as a small business and grew quickly. It expanded by 33% in 2015 and currently operates 12 restaurants and employs approximately 1,200 people. The importance of having thorough policies and programs in place for businesses of all size are apparent as the BRG story unfolds.
Take steps now to prevent sexual harassment in your workplace and to avoid the unfortunate consequences of failing to do so. What can you do?
- Create, post and periodically circulate to executives, managers and hourly employees a clearly-stated anti-harassment policy that includes several reporting options for persons who believe they have witnessed or been subjected to sexual harassment.
- Encourage reporting of sexual harassment and assure employees understand that they will be protected from retaliation for making complaints.
- Promptly investigate reports of sexual harassment and take remedial action when appropriate.
- Provide mandatory anti-harassment training to all employees, including executives, managers and supervisors.
If you need assistance, our Employment Practice Group can help. We have experience drafting policies, providing anti-harassment training and handling claims of sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace, including responding to charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and defending lawsuits.