The Harvey Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement have focused an unprecedented wave of attention on the problem of workplace harassment. In a recent survey, 66% of executives ranked sexual harassment as the most or second-most important issue on their radar. Prominent executives in entertainment and business have lost their jobs. U.S. HR departments are scrambling to revise policies and training and examine their company cultures.
Abroad, however, the picture can be very different. Some countries have strict laws against sexual harassment, while others have laws but don’t enforce them, and still others have no laws addressing the subject at all. Some have mandatory harassment training and reporting. Some subsume harassment under the more general category of bullying.
No other country has addressed the issue of discrimination with as much depth and precedent as the United States. To deal with harassment abroad, multinationals must realize they are starting from a different base. Simply translating home-based policies and training into a new language for use in another jurisdiction isn’t the answer.
While multinationals must learn to navigate relevant foreign laws, they also need to realize that harassment is just as much about culture. Keeping that consideration in mind, this article will provide background and outline some steps you should take to deal with harassment issues in foreign offices.
U.S. anti-harassment policies have their basis in three laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. All are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
To what extent do these laws apply to employees in your foreign offices?
For non-U.S. citizens, they don’t apply at all. And while they are supposed to apply to U.S. citizens working abroad, there’s a glaring exception: If compliance would violate a law in the country where the foreign office is located, the employer is not required to enforce it.
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Rosie Ranauro joined Radius in early 2018 after more than three years at Pathfinder International, a U.S.-based sexual and reproductive health and rights nonprofit with operations in more than 15 countries. She advises clients on a wide range of global HR issues, including benefits and compensation programs, compliance, and salary benchmarking. She works in Radius’ Boston office.