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Companies can't ignore culture of harassment
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Employers who tolerate or ignore sexual harassment in their workplace are likely inviting costly, and possibly devastating, legal problems, a top attorney in employment law told local Rotarians.

Tim Garrett, a partner in the Bass, Berry & Sims Law Firm in Nashville, cited “the company culture” as the key to either condoning misconduct or combating harassment and abuse.  

“How do we cultivate a corporate culture?” that protects the rights of all employees to be protected from unwanted sexual attention, asked the speaker at The Rotary Club of McMinnville luncheon on Thursday.

The workplace, he observed, “is a microcosm of society.” When society accepts, and sometimes celebrates, sexual predators we should not be surprised when bad behavior infects our offices, factories and stores. Nonetheless, employers and supervisors have a legal obligation for vigilance and corrective and preventive action, he said.

The familiar “boys will be boys” excuse falls far short of meeting the legal and moral duties of those charged with managing the workplace, Garrett emphasized in a public radio 91.3 WCPI interview.

Managers are legally responsible for how they respond to employee complaints, Garrett said. Companies often fall into liability because of “a lack of commitment at the top.”

Foremost in elevating the corporate culture, the attorney argued, is the recognition that “work has dignity, and all workers have dignity.” From the CEO to the newly hired custodian, all people have intrinsic worth and should be valued.

Garrett’s half-hour interview on WCPI airs Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m.; and Friday at 1:05 a.m.