The Harvey Weinstein firestorm is yet another wake-up call for employers about sexual harassment
Harvey Weinstein. By now, who hasn’t heard about his blockbuster downfall? First came the New York Times bombshell report alleging his long and sordid history of sexual harassment and assault. Then came The New Yorker article with interviews with over a dozen women, of which three said the Hollywood mogul sexually assaulted them. His own brother voted to fire him from the company they founded, and that bares their surname, in a unanimous board decision.
They had no choice, really. The Weinstein Company faces unprecedented legal battles and damage to their internationally recognized brand. They need to separate their business from the accused. After decades of harassing women and getting away with it, it looks like Weinstein is finally being held accountable for his actions. As for his reputation and future business prospects: Stick a fork in him, he’s done.
Let’s not kid ourselves by imagining that sexual harassment is a Hollywood “casting couch” issue that doesn’t translate to other industries. It exists across private and government workplaces, in all corners of the country. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that:
- Harassment based on sex made up 45% of all cases brought to the EEOC in 2015.
- Sexual harassment is the most prevalent of all cases the EEOC
- Last year, they agency recovered $164.5 million for harassment cases.
- Nearly one-third of approximately 90,000 charges the agency received in 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment.
- Harassment contributes to decreased productivity and increased turnover.
As you can see, harassment complaints are nothing to take lightly. They can be expensive, disruptive and damaging to your company in so many ways. Sadly, way too many businesses are ill-prepared to deal with a harassment complaint when one is filed. This isn’t a risk worth taking.
Make sure your company is prepared
“It is important for business owners and executives to realize that how they and their organization react to a harassment claim, whether they think it is merited or not, becomes part of the issue itself,” says Tina Hamilton, PHR, president of myHR Partner. “As soon as an incident or situation is brought to your attention, you are on record. That’s why it is critical to know how to respond to such scenarios properly.”
“By all means, don’t joke about the alleged victim, or embarrass or belittle them,” warns Hamilton. That kind of behavior will only undercut the perceived objectivity of your internal investigation, so just stick to the facts and use nonjudgmental terms.
Instead, when faced with a harassment claim, some important steps employers should to take include:
- Prevent retaliation
- Keep the accuser and accused from interacting on the job, via reasonable managerial steps
- Compile and review all related documents (this includes social media posts, emails, and text messages)
This can be a teachable moment for employers
There are two extremely important HR functions that can help protect employers from harassment claims.
“Documentation is imperative when dealing with any kind of harassment claims,” says Hamilton. “For companies that are not currently making HR documentation a priority, let’s hope this opens their eyes to what needs to happen when complaints are filed.”
Beyond record keeping, companies can benefit immensely from quality training for its managers on such topics as harassment, performance reviews, conflict resolution and employee communications. Before an incident occurs, educate your management team about what constitutes harassment and discrimination. They need to know beforehand how to react to complaints, so that things don’t spiral out of control within the organization. Giving your management team the tools to handle affected employees benefits the entire company from the top down.
myHR Partner has a wide range of training offerings that will help you educate your managers so that they can play a pivotal role in protecting your organization’s brand. Beyond good for business, some states, like California, require annual or periodic harassment training as well.
Whether you are looking for workshops on harassment and documentation, or some other employer need, our team is ready to assist you. Learn more about our dynamic and customizable training programs and how they can help improve your bottom line.