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If Bill Cosby’s conviction and the firing of high profile executives didn’t cement the #metoo movement’s recent historical impact, the conviction of Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein certainly has. With that type of attention and newfound understandings (and definitions) of what harassment and misconduct are, we continue to see the topic echo throughout the halls of the American workplace.

Numbers Tell the Story

The official start date given to the #metoo movement is October 17, 2017. Since that time, there has been a significant spike in reported* sexual harassment complaints. For example, in 2018 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 7,609 sexual- harassment complaints, up 13.6% from the previous year. Perhaps, however, those numbers are beginning to flatten with 7,514 official (Federal) reports made in 2019, down 1.2% from 2018. Some experts offer that awareness and training are beginning to have a quantifiable effect. Even so, despite the “number of reports” data, litigation was up nearly 20 percent in 2019 from 2018, indicating that reports are being followed up more consistently with legal action.

Attorneys Laser-Focused on Client Harassment

Attorneys will ask their clients if they had been harassed (or worse) at their workplace. Even if not previously documented, such allegations, proven or not, can test a company’s Executive and HR teams. What’s more, these types of allegations often create morale issues and often bring negative publicity to the brand’s overall perception.

Policies and Procedures

Over the last few years we have witnessed a significant uptick in companies looking to be proactive in their approach to protect their employees and organization. It has never been more important to have a clear set of policies (statement of company expectations) and procedures (protocol if policies are purportedly breached). Organizations typically utilize their employee handbook as the place to communicate these policies.

Enter the States

State-legislated mandatory sexual harassment employee trainings are now required in a handful of states (California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Delaware and Maine). In most cases, these mandated trainings have a required curriculum and proof of completion process that must be adhered to. Other states are expected to consider/enact their own legislation for sexual harassment training over the next few years.

Proactive Harassment Education

HRWS clients throughout the country, whether required by state mandate or of their own choosing, are utilizing the myHRWS Portal to train their employees as to what is and what is not appropriate. Their desire is to mitigate systemic issues within their organizations.

Due to the possible implications of a harassment event and the costly consequences a claim can bring, HRWS now offers Harassment Training on a complimentary basis to the clients of our Broker Partners.

The Courts

Examples of legal favor given to employers who have actively provided harassment training to their employees has been documented regularly in Federal and State Courts (NJ- Gaines v. Bellino), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Federal Level (Kolstad v. American Dental Association). In these cases, there was a greater leniency from responsibility/damages when companies have shown they have delivered harassment training in good faith.

The HRWS consulting teams are always available to answer questions regarding the implementation of harassment training, and to discuss policy and procedure best-practices.

About HRWS

HR Workplace Services Inc. partners with the nation’s top insurance brokers and agencies providing their clients with best-in-class services and support for HR concerns, compliance and technology. HRWS operates in all 50 States and in over 25 different countries, serving organizations from three to 200,000 employees in 545 SIC Codes.

If you have questions about HRWS, call or email us directly or ask your insurance broker about us.

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The information contained in this article is intended for educational purposes and to provide a general understanding of regulatory events, legislative changes and the law – not to provide specific legal advice.
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