Sexual Harassment Claims Spike Due To #MeToo Movement

Posted June 15, 2018 by Mary McGinley

The #MeToo movement moved into the spotlight when just one year ago, former film and media mogul, Harvey Weinstein, was confronted by multiple women alleging sexual harassment and even rape.

Since that time, the uptick in the number of cases being reported to HR departments in companies around the world has been staggering. Suddenly empowered by the movement, women have been stepping out of the shadows and reporting complaints that they have also experienced.

HR professionals like Johnny Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said, “It created this HR level of activity like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

In a recent seminar that Taylor conducted, when he queried his audience of HR managers how many were now dealing with complaints sparked by the #MeToo movement, the response in the room was 100%.

It should come as no surprise that the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace has been prevalent for decades. However, with the accusation of Fox executive, Roger Ailes for by former news anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, longtime CBS and NPR anchor Charlie Rose, Producer Harvey Weinstein and other celebrity notables, other women who were perhaps not so well connected in the media began to speak out.

Up to that point, part of the job of HR was to keep such allegations out of the spotlight and settle things quietly out of court. Settlements also depended upon non-disclosure agreements which would further silence victims.

It’s Not Just About Sexual Harassment

While sexual harassment claims make up the bulk of such cases being brought to HR departments, other matters such as pay inequity, retaliation, and bullying have also become more common.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center and one of the founders of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund sees this time as “….an opportunity to finally get it right.”  It is her hope that the added attention will bring about more of an opportunity for healing, but sometimes that might be difficult since some workers, particularly those that work in companies with fewer than 15 employees or are a contract are exempt from federal laws in place to address such matters.

Companies are taking the matter more seriously, conducting sensitivity and non-harassment training as well as implementing policies. Ironically, even though incredible progress has been made through the #MeToo movement, those women who do find the courage to come forward can still be silenced. When reporting to their company HR departments or to a government agency they are often asked not to discuss such matters while the case is being investigated or is pending.