Sad to say, but in recent months, our employment team has been called upon to assist a number of clients investigating allegations of sexual misconduct at a range of organisations. At the same time, our media team have been advising on the reputation management issues that arise from these issues.
So, on Thursday 22nd March, employment partner Lucy Lewis and media partner Adam Glass, joined forces to present 'Notes on a scandal'. They ran through the key issues to consider when carrying out an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, ensuring fairness to all parties and protecting the reputation of the agency. Lucy and Adam used a fictitious case study in which a group of women, who may or may not have been employees of an ad agency, email the Chief Executive to complain about the inappropriate behaviour of a celebrity who appears in television commercials being produced for a client, together with the Board Account Director for that client.
Here are some of the key points raised by Adam and Lucy:
1. Be prepared: identify your crisis-management team in advance, collate emergency contact details, and define the roles for each member of the team.
2. Be decisive: work out your plan for the investigation, being objective and fair. Ask open questions to establish the facts as fairly as possible.
3. Be transparent: Provide information quickly, effectively and accurately. Make sure that the employee is kept informed about progress of the investigation. But make sure that the parties to the complaint and the people being interviewed fully appreciate the need to maintain confidentiality for the duration of the investigation.
4. Be consistent and follow procedure: Do not be bullied by the media or dance to their tune. Don't be bounced into quick decisions or off-the-cuff reactions. It's important to follow your own procedures, to be consistent and to conduct the investigation fairly and impartially. Decisions should only be made once you're in possession of all the facts.
If investigations are carried out correctly, then not only can victims of discrimination or harassment be treated fairly, as well as alleged perpetrators, but the reputation of the agency can be preserved in the eyes of other employees, as well as clients and the wider market. Get in wrong, and the legal liability and reputational damage can very serious indeed.
The next event in this seminar series is being held on 26 April. To find out more click here.