Harassment can be found in any industry, as evidenced by the #MeToo campaign. There are harassment incidents across politics, education, law, corporate and blue-collar America, as well as Hollywood.

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Some companies are taking a “not us” attitude and setting themselves up for a potential disaster. It’s unlikely everyone caught up in these scandals – Uber, Google, and Kleiner Perks to name a few – felt that the harassment and discrimination scandals could happen at their companies, but it still happened. Have you recently evaluated your business policies when it comes to harassment? And does this even matter?

 

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A National Epidemic

 

While there are harassment claims in just about every industry, the acting Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Victoria Lipnic says that only around a third of all women who experience sexual harassment in particular, file internal complaints and even less will file complaints with the EEOC, even though a company is aware that this inappropriate behavior is happening.

 

Failing to prevent issues – or outright ignoring problems such as bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse – can have significant negative consequences that all have financial ramifications. Should the victim file a suit with the EEOC, the company is subjected to an investigation and potentially a lawsuit by the EEOC on behalf of victims. The EOCC received around 27,000 such claims of sexual harassment alone in 2016 and is growing every year.

 

It seems that claims of harassment, especially sexual harassment, tend to come to light through social media, which is what happened with Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and Bill Cosby. Then the EEOC investigates and potentially litigates.

 

 

 

The Hidden Costs of “Not Us”

 

The costs of a harassment lawsuit can vary depending on the facts of a case, how complex it is, and whether it is settled out of court or litigated. Companies can expect to face costs of between $100,000 to several million dollars. This doesn’t factor in the costs of the damage to their reputation, loss of clients, customers, and investors (which happened to Uber), and the opportunity costs that come with attracting and retaining talented workers.

 

Ignoring claims of harassment, bullying, and other conduct – or turning them into some kind of open secret – will have dramatic ramifications for any company. Not only are there legal consequences, dismissing and discounting employee complaints triggers a chain reaction in the organization:

 

  • It spreads the message of unacceptable behavior which can spread through entire company culture
  • It rewards those in the wrong and legitimizes the conduct while stigmatising victims
  • It affects the sustainability of a company once the secret is exposed

 

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So what can your company do about this?

 

Check out Part 2 of this post to learn the top 4 best practices your company can implement.

 

Let RAI be your partner in developing and/or revamping your current harassment policies and education programs. Our services are heavily rooted in a practical approach to protecting your company. With years of hands-on Human Resources experience in Engineering, Manufacturing, and Professional Services, we’ll customize an effective solution that makes a difference.

 

RAI Resources services in the greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas in PA as well as central NJ. Call us now for your complimentary consultation.

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