When It’s Not Illegal, But It Is Bad Business

Counseling clients on reputation management is one of the most important things a business advisor can be doing these days.

In April, the New York Times reported on the rules governing conduct of NFL cheerleaders in and outside of work. While the football players are free to conduct their social lives, cheerleaders are prohibited from posting pictures of themselves on social media, their clothing and appearance are heavily regulated, and they are held responsible for preventing relationships with players. For instance, if a player enters a restaurant where a cheerleader is eating, she must promptly leave. The players, of course, may eat wherever they like.

An EEOC complaint filed by a cheerleader may force clarity on the legal issues raised by this policy, but another, more important question will remain: Even if this conduct policy is not technically illegal, can the NFL honestly say it’s good for business in 2018?

In this current cultural moment, lawyers who see themselves as business advisors need to counsel their clients on more than just regulatory issues. What policies and practices are going to come back to bite your client, even if they do not raise regulatory issues? Brand value and reputation management—and communications professionals with expertise in this area—must be part of the conversation around workplace policies. After all, in most cases it was not the law that brought down people and companies accused of harassment or discrimination—it was the public outcry and the demand for accountability. Only then do the lawsuits follow.

You can provide tremendous value to your clients by assessing their legal exposure and any risks to their reputation.