With all the recent political developments and sexual harassment claims, it’s easy to lose sight of developments on the employment front. Unless, of course, those developments intersect in the Human Resources Department.
That’s what a new XpertHR survey on the 15 most challenging HR compliance issues of 2018 tells us. According to the survey, released today, the some of the most pressing (pun intended) issues for the Human Resources Department are harassment, workplace violence, drug testing, medical marijuana and the Affordable Care Act.
The Light Dawns on Human Resources
I’m willing to bet the results would have come out very differently had XpertHR taken the survey back in, say, September, before the Harvey Weinstein bombshell hit. Since then, enough bombs have dropped to start a small war. Women are speaking out en masse and, for the first time, men have begun to listen.
More, executives in three-piece suits and gray hoodies alike now realize that (gasp) sexual harassment, extortion, and violence in the workplaces are (1) serious, (2) widespread, (3) have legal and financial ramifications, and (4) can cost a man his job, and a company its reputation.
According to Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor for XpertHR:
“An employer needs to be particularly vigilant regarding acts of harassment in the workplace because the employer may be liable and face Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges, legal complaints, fines, and penalties on top of negative press and damage to its reputation.”
This would seem beyond obvious but until now, corporate legal and human resources departments have dedicated themselves to protecting the jobs and reputations of harassers while stifling, threatening, and firing the women who dared to speak up.
Time’s Person of the Year
Last year, Time magazine’s Person of the Year cover went to our serial sexual molester-in-chief, Donald J. Trump. This year, in a great irony, the five women who broke the code of silence around Harvey Weinstein grace the cover. Who’d a thunk it?
Victims first, offenders second. I guess that’s progress, although to me it’s like naming Harvey Weinstein the Person of the Year because his offenses were so egregious and perverted they drove his victims to speak up.
The workplace violence in the XpertHR survey refers to “active shooter” situations, not rape, although the latter is, by definition, an act of violence and it can occur in the workplace. I guess XpertHR can be selective about what constitutes workplace violence—although some of the women trapped by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Donald Trump might disagree.
Four Human Resources Responses
In my career, I have seen HR departments respond to complaints of sexual harassment in different ways:
- Tell the woman she should accept it and keep quiet if she wants to keep her job.
- Tell the woman it’s no big deal—not worth the problems it will cause.
- Put the male offender on notice and issue an ultimatum. Then, when he ignores the final warning and does it again, give him another deadline and then another. I watched this play out with an employee who was harassing a friend.
- Put the male offender through sensitivity training. I witnessed one of these managers, who had recently completed his mandated training course, rub himself up against a woman’s butt and whisper “Loved it” into her ear.
So much for warnings, so much for sensitivity training. Human resources and legal departments executive management and boards of directors have to understand that only two actions will solve the problem
- Fire his ass. Then, don’t help him find another job, give him a good reference, or recommend him to someone they know. If he can’t find another job, it’s his fault, not the company’s.
- Hire more women for senior management positions, Promote more women into senior management. Put women on the Board of Directors. Break the Glass Ceiling that protects unified male authority.
2018: A Year of Change
Perhaps the breaches in the wall of silence, the firings, the public humiliations, the destruction of reputations and a lifetime of accomplishments will motivate men to generate some real change. It’s no longer possible for corporations to remain willfully blind and intentionally ignorant.
They have been warned. Now they need to act.