#MeToo is a social media hashtag used to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment in our society, as well as provide a public platform for discussing it. Originally founded in 2006, it became prominent in the mainstream in 2017 when several well-known actresses opened up about their experiences with sexual harassment in Hollywood.
As the #MeToo movement continues to evolve and shape the workplace, business owners may want to revisit their policies to ensure they are complying with applicable federal and state laws. Employers should consider the following points:
Implement Strict Anti-Harassment Policies
While many firms are following best practices in developing and revising their anti-harassment policies, few have strict or zero-tolerance policies in place. Businesses should continuously review existing policies as new case rulings are published or state laws change. Additionally, these revisions should be reinforced through employee handbooks, intranet, newsletters, and posters/signs.
Provide Regular Training Sessions
Before the #MeToo movement, many companies just provided an hour-long training session that did nothing but define sexual harassment. Employers should seek training designed to educate their workers about appropriate workplace conduct and the consequences of non-compliance. Training sessions should expand the list of topics covered and include conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These conversations should include strategies to empower bystanders to speak up when they witness all types of harassment in the workplace.
Take All Complaints Seriously
Victims of sexual harassment may feel afraid of coming forward because they fear the reaction of their peers, as well as management. In the past, these victims have been called liars or were told they were exaggerating. In the worst cases, they were retaliated against.
It is essential to believe and support survivors of sexual harassment when they do come forward. Employers should show victims that they care about their experiences by taking each case seriously.
Conduct Prompt and Thorough Investigations
An employer can also show the victim they care by quickly and thoroughly investigating each claim to the fullest extent. By creating an environment where witnesses can freely come forward in anonymity, employers can get a much better picture of what happened. Victims should know that the investigation is seeking out the truth and won’t stop until it is uncovered.
Enforce Disciplinary Action When Necessary
Letting an offender off without disciplinary action is a slap in the face to the victim and will only encourage further harassment. The disciplinary action must be fair, but firm, regardless of the offender’s position in the company. Once employees know employers take harassment seriously, and that they are willing to investigate every claim, there will undoubtedly be a decrease in harassment throughout the company.
Prevent Harassment Now
If you are an employer, now is the time to prevent all forms of harassment in your workplace.
I’m Rob Robinson and I have spent over 30 years practicing labor and employment law for both private and public employers. I can assist you in drafting and revising your employee handbooks to include the newest information on anti-harassment policies. I can also advise you when dealing with employees where harassment issues have arisen.
Making mistakes when it comes to harassment issues can be costly. Before you act, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.