Experts are praising Clark County’s proposed rewrite of its policies on workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination.
But those same experts say the policy is only as good as the government’s actions.
“This is a great policy on paper,” said Connye Harper, Southern Nevada chapter president for the Society for Human Resource Management. “The test is going to be where the rubber meets the road and how they implement it, and only time will tell on that.”
Harper said one of the biggest problems she’s seen is when private companies or governments fail to act on their policies. Sometimes complaints are discounted as not harmful enough to warrant investigation.
“If the county takes that approach then this policy will mean nothing,” Harper said.
Sasha Patterson, a Rutgers University faculty member whose doctoral dissertation focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, said that in order to effectively implement the policy, county staff will have to overcome the bias of protecting their organization’s reputation. County executives will also have to prove to employees that they will protect whistleblowers from retaliation, as stated in the policy rewrite.
“Up until very recently the research shows that most women wouldn’t speak up for fear of very real backlash,” Patterson said.
The policy also has room for improvements on paper, experts said.
Cyberbullying through email and social media should be addressed, Harper said. Patterson suggested the county put in writing how it will periodically evaluate the policy’s effectiveness.
The policy should more clearly spell out that harassment can be perpetrated by co-workers and customers of the county, not just supervisors, said Ann C. McGinley, co-director of the Workplace Law Program at UNLV. Bystanders who witness harassment or bullying should be compelled to report it, even if they were not the victim.
McGinley added that like it has done with sexual harassment, the policy should thoroughly define harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, sexual orientation, age and disability.
“I think this is a real weakness of this policy and of others I have seen,” she said.
Finally, the policy would have more teeth if it tied supervisors’ performance evaluations to their handling of reports of harassment and discrimination, McGinley said.
“It is not apparent from this document that supervisors’ pay and promotions are on the line,” she said.