A lawyer’s perspective on harassment policies

Last year there was a lot of talk regarding anti-harassment policies at Skeptics events and conferences. While the subject was hotly debated, nobody really thought to ask a lawyer about what the legal position of it all was.

Well, not quite everyone.

The key points for organisations is that they should have one if they employ staff, to make sure they are legally protecting themselves if there are problems with the people representing their organisations. But for attendees harassing each other, it’s much better not to have a policy, because otherwise you take on a duty of care to enforce it, and thus can be in trouble if you fail (or someone claims you failed).

If you do have one, you shouldn’t publish it in advance and all that it should say is that you expect people to comply with the law (as we already have laws against threatening behaviour, obviously) and if you don’t like people, you can kick them out without justification. This doesn’t sound too friendly, so you might just want to not hav a policy at all.

It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that this doesn’t stop you clamping down on harassment. I don’t know anyone who has had a problem tackling it due to the lack of a policy. Indeed, you’ll probably be able to do it better since you can spend your time actually tackling and not merely drafting a policy.



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This entry was posted on Friday, April 19th, 2013 at 10:55 am and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.