A Call to Stop Workplace Sexual Harassment in 2018

Harvey Weinstein. Ben Affleck. Russell Simmons. Kevin Spacey. Matt Lauer. Al Franken. President Donald Trump.

Those are just a handful of names from fourth quarter 2017 of powerful people connected to sexual scandal. Time magazine even named “The Silence Breakers” as the 2017 Person of the Year, at least partially thanks to the viral #metoo movement, where people (mainly women) have felt confident enough to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

Analysts compare the situation to a dam breaking, the likes of which will likely influence an irreversible cultural change in the U.S. Businesses are quickly taking note, adopting zero-tolerance policy changes and implementing anti-harassment training. According to The Washington Post, an increasing number of companies are even buying specialized insurance to cover executives who sexually harass employees.

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) plans cover sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and wrongful-firing claims. However, some argue these types of insurance policies perpetuate a culture of silence rather than solve any problems. The article points out, “Lawyers and some women’s groups say the policies, which shield businesses and executives from costly lawsuits and reputation damage, may also help perpetuate abuse by allowing companies to avoid confronting the problem head-on.”

Now is not the time to hide; now is the time for something different. Let’s make 2018 the year that corporate America makes a change for the better. Yes, there is a place for such insurance policies, but they should be maintained as a backup to a catastrophic event rather than a bandage for a festering wound. At most, a sexual harassment scandal at the workplace should be compared to a once-in-a-lifetime tornado, not a hailstorm that happens several times a year.

Gender, race, religion — it doesn’t matter. Leaders need to embrace a cultural change and make it clear to all employees (from the front desk to the C-suite) that harassment and negative behavior is unacceptable and will be met with swift action. Are you up to the challenge in 2018? I am.

If  you are interested in hearing more about sexual harassment  in the workplace,  I would encourage you to check out the video to our latest HR Network Seminar titled Sexual Harassment: Lessons Learned From Scandals & Strategies to Mitigate Risks. If you are an HR Professional in the NYC area and are interested in attending our events, please click here!

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