The real cost of workplace sexual harassment to businesses

It’s time to get down to brass tacks. The real cost of workplace sexual harassment to businesses is devastating to the bottom line. Higher turnover, absenteeism, and lowered productivity are just the beginning of the results of a recent study, “Me Too: Does Workplace Sexual Harassment Hurt Firm Value?”, which looked at trends at thousands of companies.

It’s time to address sexual harassment in the workplace head on. Here are some insights from this study for CEOs and other business leaders to consider: Workplace sexual harassment is a serious and widespread issue – one that impacts the bottom line. Researchers found that sexual harassment in the workplace costs thousands of dollars per employee.

Not only does sexual harassment hurt a company’s bottom line, but it also negatively impacts employee well-being. Employees deserve to feel safe and confident that leadership will address instances of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse swiftly.

Sexual harassment affects bystanders. Too often researchers found atmospheres of fear and intimidation, even retaliation. Leaders must create workspaces where all employees feel empowered, supported, and believed.

Sexual harassment is morally reprehensible. How a company chooses to foster a safe and healthy workplace environment is an important part of demonstrating the company’s values.

All employees deserve to feel safe and respected at work. That’s why RALIANCE is partnering with many companies and organizations to address sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. For more tips, please check out RALIANCE’s Open Letter to CEOs and Boards of Directors.

Why it’s important for companies to be leaders in addressing mental illness

Staying healthy and happy at work starts with workplaces that support employees. Workplace leaders can make all the difference by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their employees.

The New York Times recently published an article on managing mental illness at work. The author defined mental illness broadly, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, and harassment and those who support them have some of the highest levels of these forms of mental illness. Many also often feel invisible and suffer in silence. Sexual assault victims represent the largest non-combat group of individuals with PTSD and triggers can range widely. For instance, employees managing the care of children or other loved ones who have been assaulted can bring on/bring back symptoms as well.

Laws protect employees against many forms of discrimination, and employees may seek reasonable adjustments in their work from their employers. In a world where corporate culture often prioritizes productivity over employee health, leaders must change the way we do business. Healthy workplaces where employees are valued and mental illness is not stigmatized balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the employee.

Each day, RALIANCE is helping leaders establish safe environments and strong communities. And in the meantime, this article offers many ideas on how to empower employees and is a call to action for companies to do a better job.

Bumble isn’t just about swiping right…

This week, a bill will become law in Texas criminalizing the sending of unsolicited sexual photos.

While most states have laws that explicitly criminalize the act of exposing one’s genitals in public, few incorporate language that extends criminalization to “unsolicited sexual photos.” Today’s technology, such as text messages, direct messages, AirDrop, email, social media, and dating apps can all be easily used to send unwanted sexual images — with little recourse.

How serious a problem is it? A 2017 YouGov survey found roughly 3 in 4 millennial women have received a message with an uninvited graphic image, or a “dick pic.”  In other words, many individuals are actively choosing to use technology to commit acts of indecent exposure.  

Spearheading the issue is Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of popular dating app Bumble who wants to build a workplace where women can thrive. Herd has already taken action to address this issue – sending unsolicited lewd photos on Bumble gets you immediately banned from the app. This move was part of increased safety measures adopted by the app this past April, and we hope Herd’s leadership on this issue influences others to do the same.

At RALIANCE, we’re excited by this work. To end sexual violence in one generation, leaders in tech and commerce must use their influence and reach to establish safe environments and stronger communities. We’re poised to help.

How the hotel industry can help end sexual violence and human trafficking

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) employs 8 million workers in the U.S. lodging industry and has chosen to use the attention they command to begin a conversation about combating human trafficking. On July 30, AHLA announced their No Room for Trafficking Campaign through a public service announcement. No Room for Trafficking displays the hotel industry’s comprehensive approach to fighting human trafficking. This is a wonderful example of an industry using their power and leverage to enact positive change and create safer, more equitable workplaces where violence is not tolerated, AHLA provides an empowering example for other industries, demonstrating that focusing on prevention before harm occurs is being part of the solution to ending sexual violence in one generation.

“In the fight against human trafficking, the hotel industry is united in our commitment to being part of the solution,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA President & CEO. “By taking action to provide human trafficking awareness training for our employees and the sharing of hotel industry best practices, we hope to serve as an example for other industries, while finding new opportunities to partner across the tourism sector and those joining us in this important fight.” Read the full AHLA Press Release.

AHLA has formed partnerships with a wide range of national organizations, all dedicated to promoting workplace safety and preventing sexual violence. This list includes: ECPAT-USAPolarisBESTNational Sexual Violence Resource CenterNational Alliance to End Sexual ViolenceDC Rape Crisis CenterNational Domestic Violence HotlinePeace Over ViolenceRALIANCERAINNSafe House Project, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

No Room For Trafficking begins with public awareness, but it also includes intensive training for industry staff on how to identify and respond effectively to situations. Additionally, it establishes a companywide policy and promotes sharing success stories and best practices.

We commend AHLA for using their position in the public eye to promote a conversation about stopping sexual violence, and we encourage other organizations and industries to join RALIANCE and partners such as AHLA in the fight to stamp out sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse once and for all.

Trend Alert: NWLC finds more states are strengthening workplace reforms

A year after #MeToo went viral, state-level legislation strengthening workplace harassment laws have become a growing trend. So far, 15 states have enacted workplace policy reforms, all documented in a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC): Progress in Advancing Me Too Workplace Reforms in #20Statesby2020.  

States are recognizing that employers should:

Require preventative anti-harassment training.

Prohibit nondisclosure agreements as a condition of employment or as part of a settlement agreement.

Expand protections to include independent contractors, interns, or graduate students.

Extend the statute of limitations for filing a harassment claim.

Over 300 state legislators from 40 states and Washington DC have signed the #20Statesby2020 pledge, promising to work with survivors and afflicted communities to build robust policy solutions. Preventative policies are essential to reducing harm in workplaces, schools, and assisted care facilities.

“To prevent sexual harassment at work, we must start by addressing it in schools since the treatment and behavior students experience from their peers, teachers, and administrators ultimately shapes workplace norms around gender, race, respect, and accountability.”

(NWLC, Page 4)

Sexual violence isn’t a bipartisan issue. It’s important that all state governments take an interest in the safety of their constituents at work and at school. Read the NWLC report to investigate the movement in your state. Additionally, a helpful resource is the Workplaces Respond to Domestic & Sexual Violence National Resource Center by Futures Without Violence, which supports survivors, employers, co-workers, and advocates.

At RALIANCE, we believe companies have a responsibility to promote a safe work environment that is committed to the well-being of all employees. We also help companies enact systemic cultural change which prevents sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Learn more online.

Aziz Ansari wearing a tuxedo at a red carpet event

Aziz Ansari is back – are we ready for redemption?

Ansari’s fall from grace deepened a crucial divide in the #MeToo reckoning, according to Vox’s Caroline Framke, exposing this duality of the “good feminist ally” who wore his Time’s Up pin proudly who also acted this way. Now the guy who wrote the book on Modern Romance is poised for a comeback. His new stand-up comedy special, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now,” premiered today on Netflix, in which he addresses the sexual misconduct.  

It begs the question in the #MeToo era: Are we ready to talk about redemption songs? 

According to the woman whose story sparked Aziz’s #MeToo spotlight, Ansari texted her later stating: “Clearly I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.” ( January 2018). Also in this text he discusses his intention, not his impact. Far too often a so-called apology focuses on what was meant or wasn’t meant in the moment but does not acknowledge the harm. This is not an apology.

Inherent in this story is our tendency to want to boil down it all down to “he said, she said,” a dynamic that ignores the fact that people who do these things often make strategic choices to ensure there aren’t other witnesses, as well as all the ways cultural, social, and gender cues play into dating, sex, and relationships. Dating norms and assumptions are shaped by our culture – often not in healthy ways. Ansari took some time away from the spotlight to reflect on this incident.

#MeToo kindled a fire that is burning its way through organizations, industries, and our communities. The anger and pain caused by years of being silenced and ignored are still red-hot. We have yet to really focus on prevention – we can intervene earlier and change behaviors. We have to. There are no throw-away people. There’s no voting anyone off the island. What if they, too, want to have a comedy show on Netflix and want to be back in all of our good graces?  

Here’s a possible ruler – Did you:

Own it. You messed up. Don’t avoid or ignore it – take responsibility for your mistake.

Be proactive and seek help. Asking for help is a sign of strength and growth.

Put in place measures so this doesn’t happen again. Get an accountability buddy. Look at policies in your organization.

It doesn’t go away, but you learn to accept it. You caused harm. This does not define your entire character. Use this information to be better and do better.

What #MeToo started is a cultural revolution and building healthier and safer spaces takes time. It would be easy to focus on individual accountability and forget about community and wider societal accountability. We can also ask Netflix and other corporations and businesses what policies and practices are in place to ensure the artists they work with adhere to the standards and values they have as an organization? For more information about what employees, managers, HR professionals and even Boards of Directors can do, check out RALIANCE’s series of open letters.

Photo by David Shankbone. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Why it’s Important the 2020 Democratic Presidential Debates Talk About #MeToo

The legacy of #MeToo means candidates must address sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse as part of their platforms – and, importantly, how these topics will be prevented and addressed within their own campaigns. This week’s first Democratic presidential debate is an opportunity to that.

Time’s Up representatives Eva Longoria, Ana Navarro, and Hilary Rosen recently penned an important op ed noting the significant role of the moderators in these debates to shape the questions posed to the candidates. They wrote, “It’s true that women and people of color share plenty of concerns with white men. But asking those general questions isn’t enough: We need to know how the candidates would approach issues that are of special concern to female voters.”

As the presidential debates kick off, we thought we’d share some best practices for how political candidates can talk about sexual violence prevention and champion safe, healthy and harassment-free workplaces and environments while on the campaign trail:   

Be proactive. Promote a culture of respect and inclusion. In many ways, how campaigns structure and treat their staff sends a message about the political candidate’s broader values and priorities. As the leaders of their campaigns, political candidates and their senior staff are responsible for modeling good behavior and setting norms and standards for a work environment that promotes the safety and well-being of all employees.

Maintain a clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policy. Candidates should put into place transparent policies, procedures, and reporting mechanisms that include training and awareness – not just for how victims may report but on addressing the inappropriate behaviors that enabled this to happen in the first place.

Talk about how all of us can do better to help end sexual violence in one generation. Here’s an example of what a candidate could say: “Sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse have no place in our workplaces, and it’s on all of us to look out for each other. That starts with training and awareness, but it doesn’t stop there. To end sexual violence, we all must work to build a culture based on mutual respect, safety and equality.”

Pledge to put more funding and resources to support survivors and expand access to prevention education. Addressing the serious gaps in such issues as reducing the rape kit backlog, addressing sexual assault on campuses as well as in our military requires a significant economic investment.

For more tips, check out these RALIANCE resources: What Bernie should have said about allegations of sexual harassment on his campaign and Advice to 2020 Political Candidates and Campaigns.

5 Key Tips for Organizations to Improve Their Workplace Culture

Last week, approximately 100 Google employees, community activists and investors joined together to protest at Alphabet’s shareholder meeting and demanded change from the company on how it handles workplace issues, including sexual harassment and misconduct policies. Google is not alone. Companies and institutions across the country are grappling with these issues. With many thanks to the MeToo and Time’s Up movements, we are finally talking about accountability and prevention and starting to see a true public reckoning with attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that must change.

So what can companies do to improve their sexual harassment policies and workplace culture?

While all employees have a role to play in the workplace culture, leadership comes from the top and chief executives and board of directors are ultimately responsible for establishing and maintaining an organizational culture where respect and civility are promoted and harassment is swiftly and proportionally addressed.

Here are a few key tips to consider –

Follow the best practices to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct in your organization. 

Identify conditions that place employees at risk.

Maintain a clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policy.

Implement training that works.

Promote a culture of respect and inclusion.

Change requires leadership and accountability.

Read our entire HR Open Letter Medium series published in April 2018 for more insights.

Our open letters addressed specific ideas for how to prevent harm to all the stakeholders in an organization: CEOs and boards of directors, CHROs and human resources executives, managers and supervisors; and importantly employees as the first line of defense. In addition to the best practices listed above, everyone in an organization can be an educated and engaged bystander. Companies can use employee surveys, engage their boards effectively, and boost educational efforts internally. Engaging outside help to review policies and coach leadership about impacting behaviors in the workplace is a wise investment in promoting a healthy work environment and limiting the risk of sexual harassment and misconduct going unaddressed.

Statement on Roy Moore’s announcement to run for the US Senate in 2020

“Roy Moore’s announcement is a direct affront to survivors of sexual violence and the people of Alabama. His attempt to re-enter public life without taking ownership of the irreparable harm he has done should be a reminder that, now more than ever, we need to hold accountable those who use their positions of power to exploit and abuse the most vulnerable in our society.

“Not too long ago, a critical mass of voters in Alabama made a powerful statement: sexual violence and abuse won’t be tolerated from public officials. We are in a watershed moment for sexual violence prevention and survivors and women across the country will be counting on the voters of Alabama to make sure we don’t go back.”.

Read the statement.

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