Replacing #MeToo with #NotMe
have become well-conditioned to respond to the sound of a fire drill or a
tornado warning. But to rumors of sexual harassment? Not so much.
is a problem with potentially disastrous consequences for many American
employers and not simply because of the risk of litigation. As recent
allegations in the news have demonstrated, unaddressed sexual harassment spreads
like a fire and causes destruction like a tornado, with the potential to
destroy a business. Not only is a company likely to lose their best talent, but
customers may be quick to abandon a company that has persistently ignored
claims leveled against its key personnel.
you’re reading this post you may be a counselor for, or leader in, a company. Too
often, only the folks in HR have paid any attention to sexual harassment. The
time has come for others —managers, executives, and even board members — to
take responsibility for this issue, if the company really values its talent.
are three things all leaders can do right now:
- Shout it
from the mountain tops. A
sexual harassment policy should not remain buried in a personnel manual on the intranet.
It needs to be regularly distributed and publicly endorsed by the company’s
board and management. Make sure everyone knows that you really mean it when you
say that you have zero tolerance for harassing behavior, no matter how
important an employee might be in the company. Consider the distribution
list as well. Do you distribute the policy to employees,
independent contractors, affiliates, and customers alike?
- Recognize that HR shouldn’t handle every
matter. Most of the time, the
human resources department will be the appropriate department for handling
complaints of harassment. However, if an employee with authority over or
in the HR department, or an outside entity, is accused of sexual
harassment, the matter may need to be referred to the General Counsel, a board
committee, or an outside law firm.
- Look out for #MeToo. Unless
you have been sleeping under a rock, you may have noticed that women and men
have taken to social media to reveal past experiences of sexual harassment — oftentimes
years after the incident — using the hashtag #MeToo. We are not suggesting that
employers investigate every use of #MeToo, many of which could involve
incidents which due to passage of time and change of circumstances may be very
difficult to investigate. However, recent news stories have taught us that too
many company leaders have ignored inappropriate behaviors that have been
obvious to everyone else in the workplace and which were the subject of common
knowledge and discussion. Keep your eyes and ears open and don’t ignore rumors.
They may be cries for help that, if heeded, could save you big trouble down the