Two years since the launch of the #MeToo movement, awareness about the prevalance of sexual harassment — and its impact — has never been higher. We’ve witnessed massive women’s marches in the nation’s cities (and around the world), signaling an end to the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ history of silence and shame about sexual harassment incidents. As more and more people feel safe and supported to speak up, we’ve seen allegations against even the most high-profile figures in politics, Hollywood and every other corner of American life, encouraging even more conversation and frank talk about the effects of harassment on our emotional and mental health — and in our careers.
More and more, companies that take pride in delivering superior goods and services are the same ones being recognized as ‘best-places-to-work’, creating the positive work culture that attracts, supports and retains the best employees. For these pace-setters, positive work culture isn’t simply a branding strategy — it’s a moral imperative that drives every major business decision. These are the companies that are taking a proactive approach to the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, enacting zero tolerance policies for misconduct, more thorough response plans to handle complaints, and mandatory training and education programs for employees.
With HR professionals and managers taking all of these great steps, which of the statements below would you guess is true of sexual and sex-based harassment in today’s workplace?
- A) Incidents are on the wane
- B) Allegations have reached record levels
Statistics say the answer is B, and yet both may be true. An analysis of a decade’s worth of data by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that the number of charges filed with the agency alleging sex-based harassment reached the 13,000 mark for the first time in 2018. At the same time, overall charges related to discrimination were down. The rise in charges doesn’t appear to be a result of people acting worse than ever, but of people standing up for themselves more confidently than ever.
Reacting to the data in The Washington Post, EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic credited the higher numbers to the #MeToo movement.
“Quite honestly, as we’ve been putting this all together over the last week, I wasn’t sure what the numbers were going to show,” she said. “I suspected there was an increase, but I think it absolutely reflects a greater willingness to report it and speak up about it.”
Meanwhile, the monetary benefits paid out to victims in EEOC cases reached a record $56.6 million in 2018. It was a 22% increase from the prior year and the first time the number ever eclipsed the $50 million mark.
The Price to Pay
The math is clear: A rise in employees standing up to harassment plus ballooning litigation costs equals trouble no business can afford. The costs of these issues in the workplace – from settlements, to reputational damage, to employee recruiting – are a threat even for thriving businesses. Those that spend time and money on preventative measures are making a worthy investment.
Consider the following costs, according to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the Center for Hospitality Research:
Reputational: There are no secrets in the digital age. Thanks to job rating sites and old-fashioned word of mouth in the industry, the news that your office is not a respectful place to work will travel and chase away top young talent. The direct and indirect costs of a poor record on harassment has been tabbed at $180,000 per year for a business that grosses $1 million annually.
Legal: Payouts and legal costs for sexual harassment average between $75,000 and $125,000 per lawsuit.
Turnover: The cost of replacing an employee who leaves because of harassment is nearly $6,000. Among the expenses included in that figure are over $3,000 in lost productivity with the position empty; $1,170 for time and resources spent in recruiting replacements; and over $800 for orientation and training.
Productivity: The price of an employee not leaving can be steep too. Those who stick out the abuse will see their work suffer from the stress and depression, running an estimated $22,500 per employee in lost productivity.
Even with the upswing in upstanders, many victims will always be hesitant to come forward. A recent study found that nearly three-quarters of women and 81% of men who are sexually harassed don’t report it.
Anonymous reporting options open the lines of communication between victims or their concerned colleagues and administrators who are in a position to help. STOPit Solutions’ easy-to-use mobile app allows employees to share information through an interface that looks and feels like a text message conversation and offers total anonymity for those disclosing information. The arrangement gives victims a chance to grow comfortable sharing their stories with administrators, and supplies the employer with a written record of allegations for its investigation.
Whether you set up an email account dedicated to sharing complaints or implement a sophisticated, integrated solution like STOPit, anonymous reporting can eradicate abusive behavior before it takes root and causes more harm. It protects your positive office culture and gives your company a better chance to continue attracting — and retaining — top talent. Contact STOPit today to learn how its tools can ensure sexual harassment won’t cost your business.
Additional Resources from STOPit Solutions