A law firm tasked with reviewing the University of Iowa's employment policies recommends that the school revise its definition of workplace harassment.
Fredrikson and Byron, a Des Moines-based firm hired after a jury award and additional settlements involving former senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer and companion Tracey Griesbaum cost Iowa $6.5 million, stated in a report released Thursday that the university's anti-harassment policy sets the bar too high in its description of harassment speech that could be considered illegal. In doing so, employees could “erroneously believe that harassment that falls short of this standard must be tolerated and not reported." The current policy "does not accurately communicate what constitutes protected-class harassment in the workplace," and should be revised, according to the report, which also recommends harassment training for employees, though it didn't specify which ones.
Last May, less than 24 hours after a jury awarded Meyer $1.43 million in a wrongful termination case, Iowa president Bruce Harreld announced that the school's policies would be reviewed. It hired Fredrikson and Byron in November and has paid the firm $97,575, including expenses, according to the Des Moines Register.
Other recommendations in the 39-page report include making it easier to suspend employees for egregious sexual harassment and clarifying conduct protected in the anti-retaliation policy. In general, the review was positive, pointing out that university and athletic department policies on human rights, sexual harassment, anti-retaliation and violence complied with state and federal laws.