As this article notes, Penn State was sanctioned today in a big way–to the tune of a $60 million fine, a 4-year ban on bowl eligibility, cutting 10 out of 20 football scholarships, and wiping away all of their wins from 1998-2012. The NCAA President noted:
“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable,” Emmert said.
“No price the NCAA can levy with repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” he said, referring to the former Penn State defensive coordinator convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse last month.
This entire saga has certainly been gut-wrenching and sad. As small business owners, there are a few key takeaways from the Penn State case (though this is by no means an exhaustive list):
1) First, any person–whether they be in a position of authority or not–is required by state law to report child abuse to the authorities. Tragically, that did not happen in the Penn State case. It is not enough to tell your boss. If you have good reason to believe there has been child abuse, it is extremely important for the safety of that child that you contact the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services. Here is some information on how to do that (from their website):
Two Ways to Report Abuse:
Call our Abuse Hotline toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nationwide.
Make your report through our secure website and you will receive a response within 24 hours.
2) Second, as a business owner, it is also extremely important to take seriously any allegation of sexual misconduct even against adults–whether it be sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct. The law is very clear that employers must ensure that their employees have a safe working environment free from sexual harassment, so at the first hint of complaints about sexual harassment, business owners need to take immediate action. The first action to take should always be to call your lawyer and develop a unique game-plan to fit the situation at hand. [Note: Of course, if there is any criminal allegation involved, you should always FIRST contact the police]
3) Third, it is important to have policies and procedures in place to prevent sexual misconduct–against children or adults. Every organization will be different in terms of what policies/procedures they need to enact. For instance, we have represented churches in the past who have had to confront issues involving registered sex offenders in their church (and grappling with the issue of how to show redemptive love while ensuring the protection of children in their church). Churches regularly have children present at their activities, so their policies and procedures will need to be much more robust than a small business owner who has a simple storefront business. But even business owners need clear policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. It is important to work with your Business Lawyer to ensure that you have a set of policies and procedures that will be unique to your business’ needs.
There are many other lessons we can and should learn from this tragedy–about ethics, taking proactive action in the face of allegations, and how to protect the innocent in our society. But in the limited space for this blog post, I hope this has been helpful for all of you business owners in terms of seeing a few of the clear take-aways from this case.
With all that said, we certainly need to both pray for the victims involved in this tragic case at Penn State, as well as use this sad event as a wake-up call to make sure that each of us vigilantly looks out for the interests of children and even adults who are the victims of sexual misconduct.
If you need a Business Lawyer to help you sort through this complex area and draft policies and procedures for your business, give our Dallas Business Lawyers a call at 214-236-2712.