April 8, 2016

HK’s Steve Hirschfeld Offers Takeaways From U.C. Berkeley Sexual Harassment Scandal for Employers in San Francisco Business Times


Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP Founder and Co-managing Partner Stephen J. Hirschfeld provided insight into the recent University of California at Berkeley sexual harassment scandal in the San Francisco Business Times article titled, “4 key business takeaways from UC Berkeley’s sexual harassment scandal.” To date, 19 employees of the university have been found in violation of its sexual misconduct policies. Charges have been leveled against faculty, administrators, a counselor and an athletics coach.

Hirschfeld offered the following commentary to the author’s prompts:

Why does this sort of thing keep happening?

These things aren’t new. [This development] simply reinforces the things that should have been done for a long time at many organizations, including the need for in-depth training of executives, managers, and employees; [and] an easily understood, very practical policy on the do’s and don’t’s, and on what to do if a problem arises. [However,] if you don’t get buy-in from the CEO and other top executives you’re wasting your time.

How common is this kind of thing, and how prepared are most organizations to deal with it?

The way I’d train a small startup is very different from how I’d train a bank or a university.

Hirschfeld adds that large or small organizations “where [the] culture works” of more closely integrating work and play (e.g. alcohol at office functions) can still lead to problems. However, [a]n environment can be fun and energetic without crossing the line.

How do differences in power play into these problems, and what can be done about that?

The law is about behavior that isn’t consensual, (and the impact that disparities in power in an organization can make) is part of the conversation you have, when you’re training executives.

Regarding employees who violate policies and whether or not termination is always the best option Hirschfeld offered:

You don’t always have to terminate people. People do make mistakes. The issue is whether they can learn from them.

To read the full article, please click here.