It will be happening not just in Hollywood but in workplaces across the country. The movement spawned a Twitter hashtag, #MeToo. More than 1.7 million people have used it in 85 countries, speaking out and naming their harassers.
Over the past five years, 5.3% of CEOs globally have been forcibly removed due to ethical lapses. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, these lapses include harassment. In the United States, that’s a 102% increase from the previous five years.
Last year alone, harassment cost U.S. companies more than $160 million in EEOC settlements — an all-time high. That was before the #MeToo revolution. (Fact: The EEOC saw a fourfold increase in visitors to the sexual harassment section of its website after the Harvey Weinstein news surfaced!)
Today, employees feel unrestricted about harassment accusations, sometimes with decades-old allegations. You may possibly have a serial sexual harasser on your payroll. The first complaint opens the floodgates to a PR, social media, and legal disaster.
Seek the Answers
Now your HR should seek the answers to these questions: Is your organization vulnerable to a bombshell complaint? What’s the status of your anti-harassment training—are you just going through the motions? How about your complaint procedures and response planning?
Experts say the #MeToo movement is generating more harassment victims out of the shadows. The EEOC receives about 30,000 harassment complaints each year. It estimates that only “6% to 13% of individuals who experience harassment file a formal complaint.”
How should you respond? Here are four tips:
Rethink your Training
1. Rethink your training. There is one main reason most harassment training fails. It’s because both staff and managers see it as a corporate check-the-box exercise aimed at limiting liability. Make clear, through training, communications, and modeling by leaders, that yours is a culture of equality and hands-off respect.
Tip: Swap your online training video for face-to-face role playing that truly explains what kind of behavior is tolerated.
Our expert attorney walks you through today’s new legal risks in plain English, not legalese. Discover the new best practices for preventing, investigating, and remedying sexual harassment in the workplace.
Most importantly, learn how to develop a program that not only meets compliance requirements, but also changes employees’ behavior. Behavior change is essential. Consequently, your boring check-the-box training and slow investigation processes aren’t going to cut it anymore.
Provide Avenues to Report Harassment
2. Provide multiple avenues to report harassment. Many companies fall down when it comes to giving employees several different ways to voice complaints. (Examples: Notify HR, contact a designated senior exec or call a third-party hotline.)
Remember, an employee who is being harassed by her boss is unlikely to file a complaint if your policy requires people to talk to their supervisor.
Don’t Pull Punches
3. Don’t pull punches with a CEO or top executive. Explain the complaint, but also discuss your executive’s actions in light of protecting the organization from an expensive lawsuit. Courts will likely hold your top brass to a higher standard.
If you know what’s going on and fail to stop it, you’re opening the organization—and possibly yourself—to corporate (and even personal) liability.
Enlist the Help
4. Enlist the help of outside investigators and counsel. They will be able to better handle the investigation, explain the legal risks and give you guidance on how to proceed.