Six Steps Companies Need to Take to Adapt in the #MeToo Era

Six Steps Companies Need to Take to Adapt in the #MeToo Era

The #MeToo movement has empowered women and men to speak out about their personal experiences with sexual harassment in and around their professional environment. This can present itself in either a formal complaint to the company, or allegations made public through social media or other public disclosures. These discussions and sometimes very public statements of an individual’s experience of inappropriate conduct, sexual harassment or even sexual assault has put a spotlight on the pervasiveness of this issue across multiple industries. The impact of the allegations, resignations and public discourse should prompt companies to reexamine their processes for handling complaints and allegations. Companies should evaluate and consider ways they can implement processes and procedures to not only respond quickly and efficiently to the alleged conduct, but also to foster an inclusive environment for their workforce.

Here are six steps that companies can take to help them adapt in the #MeToo era:

  1. Review and revise your handbooks, policies and compliance programs to ensure they are updated, include strong anti-harassment and anti-retaliation language, and specifically include a clearly articulated grievance or complaint procedure for aggrieved employees to follow.
  2. Train all employees and human resources department members regarding the grievance or complaint procedure to ensure that all individuals understand how to make a complaint, to whom to make a complaint and what should be done once a complaint is made. This training should also include sessions for your employees that address what constitutes harassment, misconduct and assault; who can be responsible for engaging in this conduct; and how to mitigate and deal with allegations of this inappropriate behavior. Consider training programs that reflect actual employment settings and are delivered by leaders who are respected within the company.
  3. Evaluate how your company has handled sexual harassment, misconduct and assault allegations in the past; conduct new objective reviews and investigations of historic misconduct when necessary; and implement investigation process improvements.
  4. Create a response action plan to implement if your company is faced with publically disseminated allegations of misconduct that were not raised through the company’s internal complaint procedures and processes. This should include messaging through the company’s leadership team, appropriate small group meetings with employees and the provision of services to affected employees.
  5. Conduct proactive compliance reviews and audits and analyze your internal disciplinary processes to see where you can implement positive changes. As part of this process, survey employees on your company’s internal complaint processes to determine if there is pervasive dissatisfaction. If there is, consider enlisting the help of employees to make enhancements.
  6. Implement initiatives that can help advance gender parity in your company through equal pay, positions and leadership, including examinations of your employment statistics to see if disparities exist, and the establishment of a process to address any found inequities. Consider conducting a comprehensive audit or assessment.

The #MeToo movement has spawned a new landscape of widespread public scrutiny and the demand for sweeping change that now exists in the United States. Companies of all sizes should proactively evaluate the ways that they can promote safety and equality in the workplace—with innovative, values-driven approaches helping to make an especially positive impact.