AccessPoint’s Vice President of Human Resources, Jill Hannigan, spoke to Kristen Jordan Shamus of the Detroit Free Press on how companies can avoid and ways to deal with sexual harassment claims in the workplace.
5 things HR managers say about sexual harassment in #MeToo era
The steamroller of sexual assault and harassment claims have left no industry untouched in the #MeToo era.
Allegations of sexual misconduct took down media giant Matt Lauer, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and dozens of others. In Detroit last week, WXYZ-TV anchor Malcom Maddox was temporarily taken off the air when his former colleague Tara Edwards sued the station in federal court, seeking $100 million in a civil rights case claiming years of harassment.
Edwards said it’s the stories of others who’ve been empowered to talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace that gave her “the courage to speak out. … I used to think no one would ever believe my story.”
Jill Hannigan, vice president of human resources at Farmington Hills-based AccessPoint agreed…
“We have a lot of our clients right now starting to inquire about what they should and shouldn’t be doing,” Hannigan said.
Baker and Hannigan offer this expert advice to companies and workers who are concerned about how doing business in the climate of #MeToo can affect them:
1.) Take complaints seriously and investigate
It’s important for employees of any company to speak up any time they feel harassed, Hannigan said, but it’s just as important for the company to respond immediately.
“A company should — regardless of how long ago it was — launch into a formal investigation, which would be obtaining written statements and documents from the individuals involved in the specific situation, whether there were witnesses present or anyone who overheard or saw anything,” Hannigan said.
“Until you’re able to obtain all that information, you’re really not able to determine if there truly was harassment involved or not.”
2.) Establish an anti-harassment policy
Companies must outline clearly what is and isn’t considered sexual harassment and ensure that information is given to employees, Hannigan said.
“The most important thing we’re really trying to address with our clients today is making sure that they have an anti-harassment policy in place and it’s up to speed,” Hannigan said.
“It’s outlining what is considered harassment, what steps need to be taken if an employee files a harassment claim, processes, procedures, and outlining that an investigation will be conducted and that most importantly, there will be no retaliation against the employee who is bringing up the behavior to the employer.”
3.) Get training, rinse, repeat
Once a company has established a policy, Hannigan and Baker say regular training about that policy is vital.
“We recommend annual trainings,” Hannigan said, “and if there is any filing of a harassment claim of any sort, and an investigation is conducted, part of the resolution coming out of that investigation is a formal training for that staff again.”
4.) Establish a reporting protocol
Outlined in any good sexual harassment policy is a procedure about how to report it, Baker said.
5.) Use the Grandma Test
In this climate of heightened climate of awareness, anyone concerned about whether his or her behavior at work is appropriate can try what Hannigan calls the Grandma Test.
“The biggest thing that people have to realize is the perception,” she said. “You might think your actions are fine and OK, but that might not be how the other individual is perceiving it. And that’s all it’s going to take for them to feel comfortable or uncomfortable.
“You have to be mindful of your actions. Would you act or speak to your grandmother in that fashion? If not, you probably shouldn’t be doing it to your coworker.”
To learn more about preventing sexual harassment in your workplace, speak to a consultant at AccessPoint today!
Kristen Jordan Shamus