Higher Education Council Co-Chair Natasha Baker Quoted in Law360 Article “3 Lessons Employers Can Learn From Schools”

Higher Education Council of the Employment Law Alliance Co-Chair and Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP Partner Natasha J. Baker was quoted in the Law360 article “3 Lessons Employers Can Learn From Schools.” The central points are that employers should consider mirroring policies adopted by schools that: 1) step up violence prevention; 2) have zero tolerance for bullying; and 3) include rules for social media.

The piece notes that in recent years schools have increasingly taken steps to prepare for a potential disaster, such as: setting up a crisis response team; holding mock active shooter drills; and having a plan to ensure that emergency first responders will be at the ready should an incident occur. Baker noted that this sort of strategic thinking is less prevalent in the private sector, but unquestionably vital, “It can help employers in the event of workplace violence to be prepared, to know how to respond and to potentially save lives.”

In addressing this issue of bullying, the article noted that partially due to the recent tragic consequences of this behavior, schools are helping lead the way when it comes to raising awareness and spearheading anti-bullying efforts. Baker, who works hand-in-hand with college administrators on labor and employment issues, dissected the impact that bullying has on campuses and detailed steps that higher education institutions are taking:

Bullying intimidates people, and it’s generally the worst practice from a human resources perspective. It can cause employees to leave, and it can deter other employees from coming over to work for a particular department or employer if it has a hostile work environment….Many universities have been the first to say that this is not behavior that is welcome, and that while it may be lawful, it won’t be tolerated. A lot of institutions have put in a code of conduct that employees have to be civil in the workplace and collegial, and that employees can disagree with each other, but in a professional, civilized manner.

Baker also noted that bullying at schools is a behavior equally pernicious in the workplace – potentially a cause of low morale and productivity, a deterrent to new hires and a motivating factor in attrition.

The article concludes with a discussion of the potential for social media – both in the workplace and after hours – to serve as a vehicle for harassment or discrimination. Policies adopted by schools, such as physically taking one’s cell phone for the duration of the school day, are likely not palatable in the workplace. An additional concern for employers is the need to tread carefully as employee speech may be governed by the National Labor Relations Board. The key, however, is to take the time to – carefully – craft a social media plan.

To read the full article (subscription required), please click here.

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