I know it is hard to believe that one day a sexual harassment complaint could be filed against you at your human resource department. The odds of a sexual harassment case being filed against you has been gradually dropping according to the recent EEOC reports. However, the daily news is now a better indicator that businesses globally have employees experiencing sexual harassment in the work environment. The current accused list of characters that are involved or have been involved is long and will grow exponentially longer.
Shock and Awe
All industries have been walloped with accusations of sexual harassment in 2017. The high-profile sectors include corporate America, government, and the media. Some cases have been proven false while other accusations have prompted resignations. There were also a few terminations. Currently, there are a few accusations against influential individuals yet to be determined by the person being accused or society. Meanwhile, the accusers sit with no way to produce truth or justice; they are victims living in a world of shame and regret. Unfortunately, there is no standard goal for industries, individuals or society in the event of sexual harassment. Conventional ethical norms have disappeared.
Dealing with Sexual Harassment
After spending many years dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace, no accusation surprises me. Unfortunately, no allegation should surprise an HR department or leadership within an organization. If you or your staff find yourself surprised, you should remove yourself or your team from the situation.
Secondly, The Human Resources Playbook for handling sexual harassment is at new unknown level because social media has no boundaries. This can turn a sexual harassment case into a nightmare situation for any organization.
The most unforgettable part of the 2017 sexual harassment accusations is that the current leadership and their Human Resources departments have failed to protect employees from harassers and offer employees options to report harassment in a safe and trusting environment. It seems fear of retaliation is at an all-time high and trust in organizational leadership is at an all-time low.
What I’ve learned that leadership should realize
- There are no secrets
- The bigger they are, the harder they fall
- There are no surprises, only clues
- 1 month to 30-year-old accusations – something happened
- I’ve never met an abuser who did not understand the meaning and ramifications of sexual harassment
What to do after an allegation is made?
All accusations must be taken seriously no matter if the information is obtained via rumors, official complaint, or on social media.
- Investigate – everyone is innocent until proven guilty
- Legal advice – never take on a decision alone. Pay for expert legal advice
- Spokesperson – have an organizational leader or professional consultant to deal with public communications. There is nothing wrong with having professionally prepared statements to deal with the media and society
- Dealing with the cost – sexual harassment cases could have a financial impact on an organization and leadership needs to be prepared to have a plan to deal with monetary cost
What can organizations do to limit and deal with sexual harassment accusations?
- Written policies and procedures for sexual harassment
- Employee assistance hotline
- Training – All levels of employees should receive yearly sexual harassment training
- Retaliation training
- Leadership training
- Retain legal experts on sexual harassment if no in-house counsel present
- Legal ramifications of being accused of sexual harassment
- Legal ramification of being guilty of sexual harassment
- Set-up an anonymous reporting structure
- Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) – insurance to cover executives in cases of accusations
Technology now allows for organizations to stay connected with employees that may want to voice concerns.
** All training and notification of ramifications must be documented on a yearly basis.
Sexual harassment will never end in organizations. The goal is to eliminate dysfunctional human behavior as much as possible and focus on creating ethical organizations. Strong leadership attitudes and practices from the ‘top-down’ need to filter through an organization that makes sexual harassment unwelcome. Otherwise, businesses may pay a very high price for settling issues both financially and socially.
Never be ignorant.
- Richard Branson
- John Lasseter, The chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios
- Alex Gilady, International Olympic Committee member
- Gavin Baker, a prominent tech fund manager at Fidelity
- Matt Lauer, Superstar of media that now seems to have years of problems with women
- Ed Westwick, actor of ‘Gossip Girls’
- Jeffery Tambor, star of ‘Transparent.’
- Charlie Rose – star of CBS This Morning and BPS
- Andrew Kreisberg, Warner Bros. Television Group
- Glenn Thrush, New York Times White House
- Judge Moore, Candidate for Senate with stories of a ‘Purity Test’ for younger ladies.
- Minnesota Senator Al Franklin
- Former President George H.W. Bush
- Jeff Hoover, Kentucky House Speaker
- Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich
- British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon
And the list goes on…