Harassment a Key Focus of SHRM Human Resource Conference

Harassment a Key Focus of SHRM Human Resource Conference

The Northwest Indiana Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (NWI SHRM) held its 21st annual Human Resource Conference recently at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. In attendance were numerous HR experts and other professionals from throughout the region who came to learn about the latest trends and topics impacting the workplace.

Jim Jorgensen, a partner with Hoeppner, Wagner and Evans and board member with NWI SHRM, started off the day with a presentation on the latest employment law updates. A major focus of this was the Me Too movement and harassment policies in the workplace.

Jim Jorgensen

“The Me Too movement has not materially changed any laws, but clearly the movement has gotten the attention of the workforce. It’s created a much greater awareness of rights in the workplace,” Jorgensen said. “This has broadly expanded the concept of liability – there have even been claims filed against board members and other third-party non-employees like vendors and customers.”

Jorgensen encouraged all of the HR professionals present to ensure their company reviews its harassment policies and includes elements such as:

  • Multiple avenues of reporting
  • A clear definition of harassment
  • An outline of responsibilities for reporting and investigating complaints
  • Ensuring no retaliation for reporting occurs
  • Confidentiality (within the bounds of the investigation)

Relating to that, Amy J. Adolay, a partner with Krieg DeVault also spoke about harassment but went into detail about what employers should do regarding negative behaviors that occur outside of the workplace.

Amy Adolay

“Harassment often occurs at out-of-office employee gatherings and employees are expecting swift, severe action,” Adolay said. “What does your employee handbook say about areas covered by off-duty-conduct?”

She explained that many business leaders feel they can freely terminate an individual because of Indiana’s “at will” employment rules, but that’s not always the case. There are lots of additional rules to consider before doing that, such as has whether the person has filed a worker’s comp case recently or if other instances have occurred where termination might be considered retaliatory.

“Just because you have a good reason for firing someone does not mean that reason blocks their eligibility for employment,” Adolay said. “Focus on job-related reasons for discipline/termination instead of the personal behavior. Your reasoning has to be based around a job-related impact caused by the misconduct.”

In addition to the subjects of harassment and workplace behavior, guest speakers delivered a wide array of other useful bits of advice for the dozens of HR professionals that attended each breakout session. Guests had the opportunity to learn about:

  • The role of HR in building a successful business as the talent emergency escalates
  • Ergonomics in the workplace
  • Why hiring veterans makes good business sense
  • Challenges relating to philanthropic giving
  • And more

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 300,000 members in more than 165 countries. For nearly seven decades, the Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States.