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Human Resource Professionals Fear Continued Threats of Terrorism

In the aftermath of September 11th, human resource professionals cite the continued threat of terrorism as the most critical workplace issue facing the nation, a new survey finds.

One-half of those polled said their organization changed its mail handling procedures since the anthrax scare began in October. One-third said they are using audio or video conferencing as a substitute for business travel. Only 18% said their company has restricted business travel since the terrorist attacks.

The poll was conducted in Fairfield County, Connecticut on October 25 and in New York City on November 2 at workplace law seminars sponsored by the law firm of Jackson Lewis. Over 200 human resource executives participated in the programs and completed the survey.

Recruitment and Retention A Major Concern

In spite of the economic downturn, 45% of those polled said recruitment and retention was the most critical workplace issue facing their organizations. Only 23% cited job security.

Employee Lawsuits and Complaints of Sexual Harassment Decline Sharply

Half of the respondents (50%) said an employee sued their organization during the past year. This is a significant decrease from 1997, when 64% of those polled said they were sued. This year, wrongful termination was the most frequent claim (45%) followed by race discrimination (36%) and gender discrimination/sexual harassment (36%). Only 29% said they have a diversity program and less than 10% said they have a policy regulating co-worker dating.

Sixty percent of those surveyed handled an internal complaint of sexual harassment in the past year, a sharp decline from 1995 when 92% of those who responded said they had done so. But in 1995, only 34% said they provided sexual harassment prevention training for their supervisors. In 2001, the vast majority, 82%, said they conduct this type of training.

Business Casual Dress is Here to Stay

Three out of four companies (75%) said they have a policy permitting business casual dress. Of these, 56% allow casual attire every day of the workweek. This is a 22% increase from 1999 when only 34% of those answering the question said they allow casual attire every day. The vast majority (75%) described their experience with casual dress as positive and said it improved morale (70%) and was an effective recruiting tool (34%). The only disadvantage was an increase in flirtatious behavior, cited by 17% of those who permit casual dress.

Majority Conducts Drug and Alcohol Testing

More than half of those polled (53%) conduct drug and alcohol testing. Of these, 70% do it on a pre-hire basis and 16% said they conduct tests only where there is reasonable suspicion.