HR in a post-Weinstein, #Me Too world




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Sexual Harassment

This fall, the flood of sexual harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein gave women new confidence to publicly denounce sexual harassment.  Therefore,  powerful leaders – not just in Hollywood but in workplaces across the county.  The movement spawned a popular Twitter hashtag, #MeToo. Therefore, millions of women in 85 countries  used to speak out against alleged harassers.

Now’s the time for HR to ask, “Is my organization vulnerable to bombshell complaints?”  What’s the status of your anti-harassment training – are you just going through the motions?  How about your complaint and investigation procedures and response planning?

The truth is, Weinstein’s fall isn’t unique.  To date in 2018 the EEOC has reported sexual harassment claims totaling 7.7K. The settlements amounting to $56.3 MM, with $10 MM over last year.  Because, there has been a steady increase in claims over the past five years!; EEOC statistics for enforcement and settlement.

#MeToo Movement

Experts say the #MeToo movement will bring more harassment victims out of the shadows.  Because 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:

  1. Rethink your training.

    The main reason most harassment training fails is that both staff and managers see it as a corporate c exercise aimed at limiting liability. For instance, you need to make it clear in your training, communications, and modeling by leaders that yours is a culture of equality and respect.  Furthermore, guarantee that supervisors and managers receive thorough and frequent training.  Tip: Swap your online training video for face-to-face role playing that truly explains what kind of behavior is tolerated.  Furthermore, consider training all personnel more than once a year.

  2. Provide multiple avenues to report harassment.

  3. Many companies fall 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.)  Because, 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.  Therefore, consider graphically displaying the reporting process and placing it on employee bulletin boards.  Increase the number of individuals who can receive initial complaints.
  4. Don’t pull punches with a CEO or top exec.

  5.  Discuss your exec’s actions considering protecting the organization from an expensive lawsuit.  Courts will likely hold your top brass to a higher standard. Because,  if you know what’s going on and fail to stop it, you’re opening the organization  to corporate liability.
  6. Increase your internal training on investigating complaints and 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.


Don Swift

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