The Effective Use of Zero Tolerance Sexual Harassment Policies: An Interdisciplinary Assessment

Source: Mark V. Roehling, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 71, Issue No. 2, Summer 2020
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From the abstract:
The use of zero tolerance sexual harassment policies is a common employment practice that is both widely advocated and widely criticized. Advocates of zero tolerance policies describe them as a best practice that is “essential”, “the only way forward”, and something companies should be “forced to do”. On the other hand, critics of zero tolerance policies, including the EEOC Select Task Force on Harassment, characterize them as misleading efforts that are not only ineffective in preventing sexual harassment, but also potentially counterproductive.

What explains these sharply contrasting assessments? What are the key factors that should be taken into account in evaluating the conflicting assessments and making decisions regarding the adoption and implementation a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy? This article addresses these questions and is organized in four sections. Because the outwardly conflicting assessments of zero tolerance policy are due in part to different uses of the term “zero tolerance,” the first section addresses the different meanings given “zero tolerance.” The second and third sections identify and discuss the potential benefits and potential pitfalls of zero tolerance policies. The discussion in these two sections is interdisciplinary in nature, addressing the potential benefits and pitfalls from both legal and behavioral science perspectives. Drawing on the interdisciplinary assessment of the potential benefits and pitfalls, the final section provides recommendations intended to assist employers, and the lawyers and human resource professional who advise, make well-informed decisions regarding the adoption and effective implementation of zero tolerance sexual harassment policies.