The Harvey Weinstein case has brought a spotlight to a problem that has plagued not only Hollywood but other professions as well. While Corporate America has largely cleaned up its act and instituted robust anti-harassment policies and procedures, the rise of social media and the lax workplace culture inspired by tech giants have left many wondering if the workplace has taken a step back in recent years. Recent examples of large companies hit by sexual harassment scandals include:
- UBER CEO and founder Travis Kalanack was removed after a checkered history which included, among other things, advising employees on drug use and proper etiquette for sex among employees at a company event.
- Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, resigned after a female producer on the highly successful Man in the High Castle show leveled serious allegations of sexual harassment.
- Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly were forced out of high profile positions over sexual harassment allegations
These cases have emboldened persons affected by sexual harassment to bring these cases to the attention of management and the press. Keep in mind that even old cases barred by statutes of limitation may still be eligible for criminal prosecution for assault, and lawyers for victims may still seek compensation in exchange for a confidential settlement that would avoid embarrassment to the company. Put simply, these recent high profile examples of skeletons in company closets rising up years after the fact are not unique, and can happen to any company, regardless of its size.
Now is a great time for companies to review their policies and procedures to make sure there are not festering problems that have been left unaddressed. Some takeaway suggestions include:
- Ensure that anti-harassment training and policies are being supported by every level of the organization, especially the C-Suite level. Executives and valuable employees should not be exempt.
- Is there a legacy of harassment that has been left unaddressed in the organization? Are there skeletons in the closet ready to jump out? If so, develop a game plan for that contingency.
- Revisit your organization’s policies with a fresh eye and perspective. Is there an effective complaint mechanism? Are employees using it? Just because you have no complaints, doesn’t mean you have no problems. Maybe the system is broken.