The #MeToo movement has been really important, for both men and women. How does this movement affect those in the workplace?
HR managers have a lot on their plates dealing with a range of issues from employees. Sexual harassment is one of those issues and a lot of HR managers have reported seeing more cases coming onto their desks. Why? It very well could be that the #MeToo movement has given more people courage to step forward and speak out against their harassers. Watching women that are brave enough to take on a monster like Harvey Weinstein could make you think, “If she can do that, why can’t I take on the inappropriate colleague that’s bothering me at work?” Kristen Baker, vice president of Detroit-based HR Advantage Advisory, spoke with the Detroit Free Press about this issue, shedding light on the numbers of cases her own company has seen.
She said her company has seen a 60% to 75% uptick in the number of requests for online or in-person anti-sexual harassment training in the months since news of the Weinstein scandal broke, as well as companies requesting help from an outside entity to conduct independent sexual harassment investigations.
It seems that the discussion on sexual harassment is changing for the better. In my own personal experience, I recall a time when I was working as a receptionist at a company when I was around 19 years old. It was a part-time gig and I made friends easily. Being up front meant everyone saw you on their way in and out. I had people stopping by my desk all day. One man in his late 40’s or early 50’s made me uncomfortable. He would comment to me on women’s shoes and bodies as they walked out the front door.
He would eventually tell me that he liked to wear women’s shoes and even brought a Playboy magazine into work to show me an article about how common that is. Naturally, I went to HR. I was told that he was “harmless” and “wouldn’t hurt a fly” and to just basically forget about it. I quit a week later. Not because I was being harassed more, but because I knew that the company didn’t and would never have my back if I needed them. If you want to avoid that outcome, the Detroit Free Press provided some tips that human resources can use to ensure that their employees feel safe because your employees are your greatest asset. I picked out a couple of my favorites below!
Take complaints seriously and investigate
It’s important to take these claims seriously. If someone built up enough courage to come and talk to you about a problem, don’t ever dismiss it. Also, definitely don’t put cases brought forward by men on the back burner.
- Establish a reporting protocol
This is something that’s really important so you don’t find yourself floundering when you receive a case. Know what your process is going to be ahead of time.
“It’s not only women that feel they are being harassed or have been in a situation where they feel uncomfortable,” she said. “We have had men as well and I’ve been involved in investigations of those. We need to make sure that whomever is bringing these claims forward, that we’re treating them seriously and are investigating.”
“We have a lot of companies now that are requesting hotlines, an ethics or a reporting hotline, where if you are uncomfortable talking to anybody about what’s happening, you can call the hotline. We manage a lot of these for clients and we’ve seen an uptick of those as well.”
Whatever you do, make sure you’re consistent in your approach and ensure that the process you choose is in employee handbooks!