Are Organizations Avoiding #MeToo?

Companies must show employees that they are committed to eliminating harassment. Your organization’s compliance committee should discuss harassment trainings and initiatives following growing concern from #MeToo. Here are some important things to consider. Riddle Compliance. Al Jabbar Riddle, Esq.

We hope not!

In a recent NY Times article, Jodi Kanter tackled this question emphatically. The gist of the article is that fines and lawsuits are threatening companies, large and small. Some organizations including Microsoft, New York University, and even the City of Seattle, have already enacted policies addressing harassment and improper behavior in the workplace. These organizations are being proactive in the midst of growing concern following #MeToo.

#MeToo provided victims an opportunity to shamelessly address social attitudes regarding sexual harassment, gender sensitivities, hostile work environments, and most importantly, accountability.

According to the aforementioned article, “harassment has flourished in part because structures intended to address it are broken: weak laws that fail to protect women, corporate policies that are narrowly drawn and secret settlements that silence women about abuses,” are problematic.   

#MeToo has gained support for addressing a collection of issues that has historically plagued most industries and countless companies.

It should be noted that #MeToo has also received backlash from naysayers who suggest that the movement is narrow and unfocused, and that one or two bad actors cannot be accurate representations of companies’ values towards women. 

#MeToo’s rhetoric is complex and involves many nuances, but corporations must aggressively address this issue as a legal risk and ethical concern.

Failing to adequately address #MeToo, due to its complexity or because of nervousness, is detrimental. Notwithstanding fines and lawsuits, corporations that avoid burgeoning workplace issues like #MeToo run the risk of curtailing their compliance programs and relevant policies and procedures. 

Companies must show employees that they are committed to eliminating harassment.

Your organization’s compliance committee should discuss harassment trainings and initiatives following growing concern from #MeToo.

Some items to consider include:

Ethics Hotline

Improve awareness about your company’s anonymous reporting platforms to encourage disclosure. Reporting platforms should constantly be promoted to engage staff and to demonstrate the company’s commitment to transparency and accountability. 

Harassment Policy

Harassment policies are often incorporated into a company’s Employee Manual and/or Code of Conduct, updated annually, and typically distributed during onboarding or once a year as a part of corporate training. #MeToo and similar movements should be used to emphasize organizations’ policies and procedures. With #MeToo being a current phenomenon, companies should use this event to reinforce corporate values, integrity, and workplace sensitivities. If your organization’s policy requires revision, speak with your staff attorneys, compliance personnel and human resources to ensure proper updating and facilitation. All in all, companies should be using current events like #MeToo to educate.   

Encourage dialogue and a “Speak Up” Policy

Whether it is a memorandum, a policy, or a micro-course, companies must establish a tone from the top down that encourages open dialogue. A discussion on #MeToo is not a bad idea, and may serve as a great starting point during a lunch and learn or similar initiative. 

Riddle Compliance provides its clients with clear strategies to improve transparency and accountability, so please contact us about developing a well-rounded program to address harassment, #MeToo, and workplace conduct. 

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If your organization is ready to review its existing policies and procedures to make meaningful updates in the wake of #MeToo, do no hesitate to call us at 973-520-6131. You can also get in touch right here. We’re passionate about supporting our clients with respect, transparency, and unparalleled compliance, ethics, risk mitigation, and governance expertise.