Jenner & Block launches new practice counselling toxic workplaces
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Jenner & Block has launched a new practice focusing on toxic workplaces, with the aim of helping organisations understand and assess cultural and compliance issues, including challenging issues like gender or racial biases.

The new culture risk and sensitive investigations practice, with its members spread across four of the firm’s six offices, conducts independent reviews to help clients mitigate reputational risk and avoid corporate crises, Jenner & Block said in a statement.

The Chicago-headquartered firm said it has been counselling clients on these issues even before the #MeToo movement focused a spotlight on cultural risk issues.

“Organisations have become increasingly aware of the need to consider and address concerns raised regarding a problematic workplace culture. Incidents of workplace misconduct or harassment can also be symptoms of deeper problems in which policy violations or more subtle forms of inequity or bias are tolerated and un-reported,” said Anne Cortina Perry, New York-based co-chair of the new practice.

“Toxicity in a workplace culture breeds risk – not only to an organisation’s reputation among its employees, customers, and other stakeholders – but also that other concerns related to compliance, ethics, and safety will not be timely or effectively addressed, thus setting the stage for significant additional, serious legal risk. It is our goal to help companies and their leaders ensure their corporate cultures are not only ‘compliant’ but healthy, inclusive, and productive.”

It is important to get at the heart of the matter to truly address these risks so that our clients may move forward and are able to address the real issues, not just the legal risk

“These deep-rooted culture issues are often not easily visible to c-suite and boards of directors, and can affect organisations around the globe,” added practice co-chair Christine Braamskamp in London.

“Our approach to investigating sensitive, nuanced situations is to figure out what’s really going on in an organisation, rather than narrowly assessing whether there is a legal claim or not and calling it a day. It is important to get at the heart of the matter to truly address these risks, so that our clients may move forward and are able to address the real issues, not just the legal risk.”

The firm’s experience in culture risk investigations ranges from workplace harassment or misconduct to investigating compliance culture more generally, to understanding root causes of workplace safety incidents in manufacturing.

Jenner & Block has conducted numerous sensitive investigations for corporations, and other organisations, including an investigation into potential sexual misconduct on behalf of special committees of the boards of religious and charitable organisations; investigations into allegations of sexually and racially hostile and discriminatory behaviour by executives at various companies; and an investigation into fatal accidents pursuant to lax leadership and safety controls.

In addition to Braamskamp and Perry, the new practice comprises a diverse team of lawyers including New York partners Anthony S Barkow, Neil M Barofsky, Lori B Day, Katya Jestin, and Dawn L Smalls; San Francisco-based partner Ann O’Leary; partners Thomas S O’Neill, Erin R Schrantz, Emma J Sullivan, and Joseph J Torres in Chicago; and London-based special counsel Lucy Blake.

“Our lawyers have extensive experience leading sensitive investigations and are trusted by organisations and individuals around the globe to handle these complex and highly confidential matters with thoroughness and sensitivity,” said Katya Jestin and Randy Mehrberg, the firm’s co-managing partners.

“Companies are subject to increasingly intense scrutiny from shareholders, regulators, employees, and the general public regarding the culture they foster. Our team – led by Chris and Anne – are experts in assessing and addressing these culture risks, with a view toward mitigating or preventing the challenges that can ensue.”