Facebook says it is doing this now because “lots of really brave women have raised their hands recently to take a stand to begin the process of changing culture and raising awareness,” Facebook VP of People Lori Goler told me over the phone.”I think this a moment where, together, companies can create lasting change. It seems like a good time to foster the conversation to be sure we don’t have many, many, many more years of women who have to raise their hands.”
At a high level, Facebook’s policies prohibit intimidating, offensive and sexual conduct “even when that conduct might not meet the legal standard of harassment,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Goler wrote on Facebook’s blog.
Examples of harassment, as outlined in Facebook’s policy, include derogatory or insensitive jokes, pranks or comments, slurs or epithets, unwelcome sexual advances or invitations and sharing offensive images that are derogatory or sexual. Facebook’s policy outlines additional examples here.
The company’s policy also makes clear that excuses like, “I was joking” or “I didn’t mean it that way” are not legitimate defenses to allegations. Nor are excuses of being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol legitimate defenses.
Facebook maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment, which means “that when we are able to determine that harassment has occurred, those responsible are fired,” they wrote. Facebook has, in fact, had to fire people as a result of sexual harassment, Goler confirmed to me over the phone. There are, of course, other things that can happen.
“In some cases investigations are unfortunately inconclusive and come down to one person’s word against another,” they wrote on the blog. In the event Facebook can’t terminate someone, they may change someone’s role and who they report to.
Other policies, which center around six principles, entail developing standards for respectful behavior at work, mandatory harassment training for managers and interns, treating all claims with urgency and respect, having an investigation process that “protects employees from stigma or retaliation,” maintaining a process that is “consistently applied in every case” and making it clear that “anyone who is silent or looks the other way is complicit.”
Although no major harassment allegations have come out of Facebook, the company is not perfect. In May, a WSJ report claimed Facebook had gender bias in its engineering department. Facebook, however, rejected those claims. And last February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to ask employees to stop crossing out “Black Lives Matter” on the walls at one of Facebook’s Menlo Park buildings.
In light of the more recent incidents of sexual harassment in the tech industry, Goler says Facebook has not made any changes to its policies because the company has found its policies work pretty well. She added that Facebook is not claiming to have all the answers, but wanted to share with the tech community at large the policies its company has in place. It’s also something smaller companies have asked for from Facebook, she said.
While companies compete in a lot of areas, this doesn’t need to be one of them, Goler said. She said she envisions other companies sharing their policies so that tech companies can work together to make corporate culture better for everyone.