Employers

Combating Harassment in the Workplace

It took years of coercion and silence, and a hashtag going viral, to ignite the Me Too Movement. In its wake, we can see just how prevalent, and preventable, harassment in the workplace is. Of course, the issue isn’t exclusive to happening on the job.

By
Derek Owens
,
on
May 29, 2019

It took years of coercion and silence, and a hashtag going viral, to ignite the Me Too Movement. In its wake, we can see just how prevalent, and preventable, harassment in the workplace is. Of course, the issue isn’t exclusive to happening on the job.

Unavoidable Statistics

“In January 2018, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person, nationally representative survey on sexual harassment and assault, conducted by GfK. It found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime,” according to an article published on the site Stop Street Harassment.

To consolidate that a bit more to work environments, a study conducted by Edison Research in 2018 found that 21% percent of Americans say they have experienced sexual harassment while at work, with 27% of that group being women and 14% men.

There is also the factor of sexual harassment victims feeling emboldened in the #metoo era and more readily addressing it, resulting in a spike in sexual assault or at least the reporting of it.

A newfound confidence surrounding those who have endured sexual misconduct at work can potentially make it easier for companies to be alerted of such behavior, and the enlightenment is helpful. Yet employers are responsible for thwarting harassment before it can occur.

Setting the Morality Precedent

How can human resources and company owners circumvent sexual harassment altogether? Quick answers include funding for research and focus groups, interviews, training and litigation. However Gillian Thomas of the Washington Post says the latter is still not enough.

“Even where employees can sue, employers create barriers to justice. The Weinstein Company’s aggressive use of non-disparagement and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) rightfully came under scrutiny,” Thomas wrote in citing how businesses find ways to protect themselves through providing sexual harassment training. This doesn’t mean training isn’t necessary in combating harmful, unwanted sexual behavior at work.

“In 2018, 32 states introduced or passed more than 125 pieces of legislation on sexual harassment and sexual harassment policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California and New York led the legislative charge with stronger anti-harassment laws and training requirements,” according to Traliant, a Workplace Compliance Training organization.

Before any litigation needs to take place, senior leadership and human resources must let their employers know there is a no-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment. If that mission is intertwined with sales goals, merrit and hard work, and gender-neutral, a certain core value system is set in place.

Harassment-Free Workplaces: Number One Job

Though it may seem daunting, sexual harassment in the workplace can be challenged if not eradicated completely. There have already been great strides in the last two years with awareness alone. Of course the problem of employees dealing with forms of harassment at work has not been overcome–and it should be for the sake of morality, a healthy work culture and for the business’s bottom line.

In late March of this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted an “Industry Leaders Roundtable Discussion on Harassment Prevention” to further hone their objective of equipping industry leaders with the proper tools to create safe, harassment-free work environments.

“Today’s roundtable discussion is an important step in furthering the Commission’s goal of ending workplace harassment and implementing strategies to build on the work of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. I am pleased to have the thoughtful input from so many different industries, and I will continue to work to ensure the Commission remains a valuable resource in this area,” EEOC Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows stated.

It’s one thing to have someone step forward, report an incident and proclaim “me too.” Yet when an employee joins that hashtag, it’s already too late.