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Workplace 2000 Survey Results

  • March 21, 2000

Throughout 1999, Jackson Lewis, a leading national employment law firm, polled over 1,000 human resources executives from a broad-range of businesses. The Workplace 2000 Survey provides valuable insights concerning significant trends affecting employee relations and management.

Hanging Up the Suit: Relaxed Attire Can Result in Lax Behavior

More than 70% of the surveyed companies have "dress down days". One-third (33.8%) allow casual attire every day, while two-thirds of those polled limit casual attire to one day per week. However, there are rules about what constitutes appropriate attire. Those polled indicated what they deem taboo: halter-tops (31.5%); shorts (25.8%); stretch pants/leggings (18%); jeans (14.6%); and shirts without collars (10%).

While "dress down days" clearly have a positive effect on employee morale - 40% of those polled see an increase in productivity - relaxed attire can result in an overall laxness in workplace behavior. Since implementing "dress down" policies, almost one-half (44%) of those surveyed notice an increase in tardiness and absenteeism and 30% report a rise in flirtatious behavior.

Paul J. Siegel, a Jackson Lewis partner, explains, "Employers should monitor workplace behavior to ensure that a more casual manner of dress does not lead to reduced professionalism. Workplace standards must be maintained or there will be an increase in the perception - or incidence of - harassment or discrimination."

Complaints of Sexual Harassment Level Off: Training is an Effective Tool to Reduce Volume of Complaints

Almost 70% of the companies surveyed in 1999 conduct sexual harassment prevention training on a periodic basis. This is a dramatic increase from a similar survey in 1995, when only 34% of the polled companies reported they conduct training.

This increase in training impacts the number of sexual harassment complaints lodged by employees. In the 1999 survey, less than 20% of the companies experienced an increase in these type of complaints from the previous year. In the 1995 survey, 40% of those polled reported an increase in complaints from the prior year.

"Clearly, corporate America is getting the message that periodic sexual harassment avoidance training is the best way to reduce the number of sexual harassment incidences," says Michael J. Lotito, a Jackson Lewis partner and Chair of the Society for Human Resource Management. "Communicating a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment is no longer an option - it is a business imperative."

Discrimination Suits Abound

Over one-half of the companies surveyed (55%) were sued by an employee during the past 12 months. The most common charge was gender discrimination/sexual harassment, reported by 27.5% of the respondents, followed by wrongful discharge (26.7%), race discrimination (21.3%), age discrimination (14.75%) and discrimination due to a disability (9.69%).

New Technology: Loss of Privacy

Sixty-five percent of the polled companies have a formal policy regulating voice mail, email and Internet access. However, the use of these technological tools is creating new concerns for employers and employees, alike. "The long-standing issue of an employee's right to privacy in the workplace has gained momentum. A new facet of employment law has emerged as these means of communication become more common," comments Mr. Lotito.

Recruitment/Retention and Accommodating Family Needs Are Top Concerns

When asked to identify the most critical workplace issue facing their companies, 40% of those surveyed indicated the recruitment and retention of employees. However, when looking at the country as a whole, 27% of the respondents said the most important human resource issue facing the nation is accommodating work and family needs. "Family issues remain a top priority for many employees," says Mr. Lotito. " The employer-of-choice must align its proclaimed commitment to employees with workplace practices which respond to these kind of concerns. Often, that takes a great deal of imagination."

About the Survey

The survey was conducted throughout 1999 at Jackson Lewis sponsored programs around the country. Over 1000 human resource specialists and in-house counsel participated. Sixty-percent of those answering the survey worked for organizations with more than 250 employees.

About Jackson Lewis

Established in 1958, Jackson Lewis is one of the largest firms in the country dedicated to representing management in employment law and related litigation. With over 300 attorneys in twenty offices nationwide, the firm is knowledgeable about national issues and sensitive to the nuances of regional business environments.

©2000 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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