It is generally understood that work environments in Silicon Valley are unlike those in the rest of the United States. Whether the business is a small tech startup or a more established company, everything about the work experience tends to be more fluid. Work may happen at all hours of the day and night, colleagues become friends and the boundaries between professional and personal life start to blur.
While this is an exciting environment to work in, it also comes with risks. If you own the business and hired the employees, you are ultimately responsible for resolving any employment disputes that arise. And you will likely be held liable if those disputes are not resolved quickly and fairly. According to the results of a recent survey, one of the biggest problems facing Silicon Valley companies is sexual harassment.
"The Elephant In The Valley" was a survey taken by more than 220 women in Silicon Valley who have been working in tech for at least a decade. Approximately 75 percent of survey respondents held high-ranking positions within their companies.
According to the results, 60 percent of the women surveyed said that they have received unwanted sexual advances at work (or at work-related functions). The majority of these advances were from their superiors. The reported rates of gender discrimination and observed sexist behavior were also alarmingly high.
There have been some high-profile examples in recent years of sexual harassment at tech startups with very few employees. Even if the alleged victim does not file a lawsuit, sexual harassment allegations can result in negative press, lost work time, low workplace morale and other problems that your company likely cannot afford.
As the head of your own company, you have an opportunity to create a workplace culture that is inclusive and mutually respectful. Laying out your workplace policies in writing and discussing expectations with all employees may help you avoid incidents of sexual harassment and to resolve them quickly if they do ever occur. As you draft these workplace policies, employment contracts and other documents, you may find it helpful to consult an experienced business law attorney.