Harassment In The Workplace and The #Metoo Movement


The #metoo movement has brought forth many emotions in the workplace, and is creating inspiration and hope around the globe. 

As an HR Professional, I have been training on prevention of sexual harassment and hostile work environment in the workplace since the passing of  California AB1825 in 2007.  I have taken the approach of teaching others how to be aware of their own behaviors, as well as how different people perceive behaviors differently.  For instance, some co-workers might see off-color joking as welcome in the workplace and part of their culture.  In other cases, this type of joking may be completely offensive and create a hostile work environment to other employees (what is termed “unwelcome” behavior).  My hope is that by making employees aware of the consequences of their behaviors and by an understanding of the personal liability that could ensue if perceived as harassment, that these types of actions might diminish.  Unfortunately, we continue to see harassment persist.  

In my own journey as a female in the workplace, I have been repeatedly exposed to inappropriate sexual harassment.  To get even more personal, I experienced a traumatic sexual assault that forced me to take a leave of absence.   And when I ask my female friends and colleagues, my three successful sisters, my mother and my 20-year-old daughter, they too indicated that they have all experienced some sort of harassment or another. 

Harassment is real.  It is an epidemic.  It effects people’s lives.  And it damages companies.  I am not sure if all of the laws or training requirements will ever completely elevate this long-standing issue.  However, the #metoo movement has created awareness, hope, and a voice against this endemic concern. 

My hope is that someday, all employees, both women and men, will be able to be fully engaged in their work environment where there is an atmosphere of mutual respect, no matter what gender, gender preference, race or religion.  I also hope that employers, managers, coworkers, and vendors will become cognizant and aware of the high cost caused by allowing harassing behavior in the workplace, through settlement cost, decreased productivity of affected employees, and disengaged employees.  I hope that there is a greater understanding on the toll that harassment takes on individuals lives through depression, lack of self-esteem, and a diminished sense of control of their lives.

At Essential HR, Inc., we are committed to developing harassment prevention training programs for our clients that are customized to their culture.  Our trainings incorporate:

  • Honest, open and transparent conversation

  • Discussions regarding the issues and aspects of their organization that can potentially create harassment, that are relevant to their industry and may already be occurring in the workplace

  • Empowerment of employees to bring their concerns forward

  • Commitment from ownership and management to immediately address and elevate each and every concern.

  • Creating a culture that does not allow employers to brush harassment concerns under the carpet

  • Creating a culture where retaliation is never permitted

  • Awareness and perception of behaviors that can be interpreted as offensive

Our goal is to help every organization that we work with to create an environment where every individual can come to work and do their best each and every day, for the good of everyone and the health of every organization. 

To learn more about the #metoo movement and about a new bill that was introduced to congress, I recommend reading this article.