The Law Practice Division recently published an article on sexual harassment that caught my eye. The article, Practicing Law in the #MeToo Era, offered simple suggestions to decrease chances of sexual harassment in the legal workplace. It bothered me that the suggestions were gender-specific and played on stereotypes. I copied the link and shared it in a Facebook group of a few (thousand) attorneys to gauge my own reaction—am I the only one that thinks this a bit tone deaf? It turns out, I was not. Within hours, the publisher issued an apology and retracted the article. All it took was a few emails from readers. In the wake of this experience, I spoke with many people I respect who are either a different sex or generation and was surprised to find not everyone shared my view of the article.
This raises two important points. First, it shows how susceptible we are to cultural blind spots. Statements that can cause anger and resentment in one group or person may evoke indifference or praise in others. Second, it exemplifies how a misstep can reach a court of public opinion on social media instantaneously. This article explains how to minimize the threat of a cultural blunder and social media backlash. To do this, employers and businesses should take steps to understand the current social climate, confirm that internal policies account for labor and employment laws, and use tools to foster a workplace culture that is conducive to employee growth. The breadth of this article is limited because I’ve used the retracted article as a point of reference—it’s important to me to address where I believe it went wrong—but I’ve included links to helpful resources for those looking for more information.
Republished with permission. The full article first appeared in the July 2018 issue of Law Practice Today.