How has #MeToo changed the workplace?

February 17, 2020

The national #MeToo conversation, now in its second year, has raised awareness on workplace harassment issues such that at least 10 states have created new regulations, requirements, or laws to address the growing concerns. Many business leaders are turning to their human resources departments for guidance. Is your business at risk? Are people in leadership positions prepared to answer the tough questions should they arise?    

Below are some ways your business can address concerns. 

Build trust

The HR department should be a safe space for employees to confidentially and formally register harassment complaints. While many HR departments issue policies and procedures, often employees don’t trust the process. The fear of retaliation can silence victims. Employees frequently hold the opinion that the HR department exists to protect the company from the actions of its employees, not vice versa. Moreover, many company policies throw up bureaucratic roadblocks that inhibit the making of formal complaints. 

For credibility, trust, and transparency to take hold, they must be nurtured across all levels of a company beginning with the executive suite. Don’t simply tell your employees about an open door policy. Put it into practice by encouraging dialogue with staff and HR. Further, companies must work to remove obstacles and red tape. For example, does your company have non-disclosure and forced arbitration agreements? These are clear inhibitors of a healthy culture of trust and transparency. A strategic HR partner can help identify and mitigate these areas for improvement. 

Eliminate non-disclosure & forced arbitration agreements

Several states have started limiting non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) related to harassment. According to experts, these policies have often been used to silence victims. While NDAs are helpful and reasonable in many scenarios such as the protection of intellectual property, when they are deployed specifically to silence victims of harassment or abuse and keep allegations from the public eye, they engender an environment of distrust.

California, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts, in an effort contended by a number of large corporations, are attempting to end forced arbitration, a process whereby disputes between a company and an employee are settled out of court under the oversight and guidance of a professional arbitrator. Many companies require job applicants to agree to handle disagreements through arbitration. Even though arbitration is more cost-effective for the employer and also keeps disputes out of the public record, it, like the overuse of the NDA, can create an environment of distrust. Congress has discussed federal legislation to limit these practices, but with no real momentum. Your business can take the progressive step by eliminating these restrictive policies under your own roof. 

Meet or exceed local harassment training requirements

Harassment training has been around for decades, but some states are increasing their regulations in light of #MeToo. California, for example, is requiring all employees in supervisory roles of five or more employees take 2 hour sexual harassment training sessions. Even employees that do not have management responsibilities will still be required to take one hour classes. Similarly, employees in Illinois who supervise 15 or more employees are required to attend harassment training once a year. 

Progressive businesses take an extra step and look outside of their own resources for training options that fit their needs. You may also want to look at third parties for additional HR compliance assistance. 

We can help.

Employers that offer professional development opportunities, hire internally, carefully cultivate their company culture, and layer accountability through training often find themselves in a position to build on past success with an eye toward the future. Management training and succession planning can benefit an organization for many years to come. Our experienced team of HR professionals can help managers unlock the hidden potential for staff in surprising ways. 

At SourcePointe, we utilize our industry experience to provide you with a multitude of customizable HR services, support, and solutions. All so your business can do one thing – more business. We’ll provide tailor-made solutions that fit your company’s needs while providing a solid return on your investment that pays off immediately – and for many years after that.

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