The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements led to a spike in the amount of reported sexual harassment across the country, specifically in office settings.
Settling these claims, which often takes place outside of court, not only has repercussions for a company’s image but typically costs an organization between $75,000 and $125,000.The highest compensation a victim of workplace harassment has received in the U.S. was $168 million.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which began in October 2017 with the publication of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against film mogul Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker and The New York Times, have pushed employers across all professions to examine their policy on sexual harassment.
In the case of Weinstein, the rampant sexual harassment claims against him led to Weinstein Co., the company he helped found, to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (Harvey Weinstein has denied all allegations of sexual assault.)
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And now more companies are taking action to prevent workplace sexual harassment. More than half of companies (52%) have reviewed their sexual harassment policies, up from 34% in January, according to a survey conducted in June and released Tuesday by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc, a career consulting company based in Chicago.
“Companies are responding to the cultural movement and recognizing that most of this abuse occurred in the workplace,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Calls to make the office a safer place and free from any kind of abuse were overwhelming, and seeing companies respond is heartening.”
Some 42% of companies reported that they were comfortable with their policies in June compared to 63% who claimed this in January. (The survey was conducted among 150 human resources executives in June. The respondents were from companies of various sizes and industries nationwide.)
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“I think some companies were bracing for potential scandals,”Challenger said, “and I think every company hoped their policies would hold up.” Now, companies are increasingly updating and clarifying their reporting procedures and insisting on zero tolerance sexual harassment policies, he said, meaning that more companies are taking immediate action after a sexual harassment report is brought to their attention.
Changing behavior may be a more complicated process. Nearly 55% of human resources professionals said they saw no demonstrable change in behavior, 14% observed a more respectful atmosphere, and 2% reported more women were asking for raises and promotions.
However, nearly 17% of employers saw an increase in complaints of inappropriate behavior. Meanwhile, 7% reported that men were more cautious in their interactions with their female colleagues, while 2% said they observed that women were more cautious.
“It is not surprising that companies are seeing more people come forward in the wake of #MeToo, as workers feel supported and empowered to do so,” Challenger said. “Likewise, it makes sense that there would be some caution when it comes to interactions at work in order to keep from crossing any lines. However, it is imperative that employers create an environment where this cautious approach to employee interaction does not keep women from having a seat at the table.”