When is it time to revisit your company’s code of conduct? The headline-grabbing ouster of a company founder after years of harassment allegations would be a pretty good signal that the time has arrived.
Last month, American Apparel fired founder and CEO Dov Charney after years of alleged misconduct came to a head. Charney, who often bragged of his in-house sexual exploits in media interviews and was sued for sexual harassment by former employees, was let go following a six-month suspension. The company’s Board of Directors accused him of both sexual harassment and the improper use of company funds.
Although Charney isn’t mentioned in American Apparel’s new Code of Conduct, his controversial tenure is likely the reason the newly released document, four times longer than the original, expands upon expectations for employee conduct and prohibitions on sexual harassment. Among the highlights:
“The company does not tolerate harassment, including abusive conduct, of, or directed towards, any of our employees, whether by another employee, supervisor, officer, director, or a third-party.”
“Any employee, officer or director found to have engaged in sexual harassment or any other kind of abusive behavior shall be subject to disciplinary action, which may include termination. No person who in good faith makes a report or claim under the code or company policy shall be retaliated against.”
“The company is committed to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, avoiding conflicts of interest, and fostering a comfortable working environment for everyone in a company workplace. No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate, regardless of whether the subordinate reports to the management employee, either directly or indirectly. No employee who has a personal relationship or romantic relationship with another employee may be in a position with any perceived or actual influence over the other's terms of employment.”
“All personal and/or romantic relationships between company personnel where one person may have perceived or actual influence over the other’s terms of employment must be disclosed by the participants to the Human Resources Department. Employees who fail to report a relationship, as required by this policy, will be subject to discipline."
“Unwelcome advances between company personnel, even outside the workplace, are not professional behavior and may violate company policy. Company personnel should never engage in any public displays of affection in the workplace, which may make others uncomfortable. If any harassing conduct or unwelcome advances occur, the aggrieved employee should utilize the procedures for reporting sexual harassment.”
Charney, replaced by new CEO Paula Schneider, has denied all allegations and is attempting to buy back the clothing chain.