If you’ve been following the news – or social media – at all you are well aware of the wave of sexual harassment accusations that have swept the nation. While most companies have long had policies designed to address this issue we were curious to see what the new, enhanced public awareness of this topic has done to how companies prepare and react.
Generally speaking, those companies that have been in the news have responded more openly and quickly. For example, after the Matt Lauer revelations, NBC announced it would bring in an outside firm to conduct in-person, interactive workplace behavior and harassment training. Fox News doubled down on its anti-harassment seminars and mandated that every employee – including freelancers – attend.
However, even those companies who have not made the news or, presumably, had a culture of harassment have also been making changes. In many cases, it is simply re-stating and reminding employees of existing policies. In other cases, it is raising the bar to include a “zero tolerance” policy. This even affected the traditional office holiday party.
A survey by outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found 49% of companies intend to serve alcohol at their holiday parties in 2017, down from 62% in 2016 and 54% who planned to serve alcohol in 2015. In addition, VOX Media only gave two drink tickets to each employee for their party.
Surprisingly, neither the US House of Representatives nor the US Senate had any formalized sexual harassment training for members or their staffs. However, the allegations against Sen. Al Franken changed all that. Now, both houses of Congress require such training.
Needless to say, many companies are reluctant to discuss their existing or improved methods for training – and handling – sexual harassment. There are potential legal ramifications here. However, most will admit to reasserting and/or strengthening existing policies.
One thing for sure is that sexual harassment is now a front and center topic in the American workplace. Hopefully, this signals an overall attitude change that will result in fewer reported cases. Many experts have said policies alone cannot change behavior. This is something that has to occur on a personal level.
Fortunately, we have come a long way since 1993 as this video demonstrates: