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March 19, 2018In the News

Employment Law Alliance Survey Takes American Pulse on #MeToo & Workplace Harassment

Employment Law Alliance

Milwaukee, WI (March 19, 2018) – The Employment Law Alliance, the world’s largest and most geographically expansive network of labor, employment and immigration attorneys, released the results of its “#MeToo/Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Survey.” The poll was sent to the group’s U.S. employment lawyers during February, resulting in 382 responses from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The data includes reflections on the workplace based on the lawyers’ interactions with major employers across the country and in nearly every industry.

“Legal compliance is no longer enough,” stated Scott Beightol, Partner in Michael Best’s Labor & Employment Relations Practice Group and liaison to the Employment Law Alliance. “The #MeToo movement calls leaders to come together to create solutions to these issues which will ultimately strengthen companies’ workforces.”

To better equip its clients nationwide, Michael Best has designed a holistic approach that supplies corporate leaders with tools, resources, and knowledge that’s necessary to embrace and address #MeToo and TIME’S UP. The firm’s approach goes beyond simply revising policies and instead addresses the tough questions and challenges that employers are facing.

“The #MeToo movement is an important wake up call to corporate America. Company directors and executives need to understand that this isn’t a fad,” stated Stephen J. Hirschfeld, CEO and Founder of the Employment Law Alliance. “These complaints suggest that a significant number of workplaces are simply not safe or respectful towards women. This poll provides a snapshot into today’s workplace, illuminating areas of concern and problems that our management-side lawyers are working hard to prevent and address. We employment lawyers are looking to take a leadership position on helping to foster a workplace environment that treats all employees with dignity and respect.”

ELA’s “#MeToo/Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Survey” is the first in a three-part Employer Pulse survey series examining workplaces issues. Workplace bullying and gender pay equity are set to be explored in future reports.

Section I: Forms of and Contributors to Workplace Harassment

Words Hurt: Most Common Type of Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace

Using a scale of 1-10 (high), 43 percent of respondents rated “Language, Jokes and Teasing” an eight or a nine, making it the most prevalent type of workplace sexual misconduct employers are facing today. It was followed by “Comments about Looks, Dress or Physical Appearance” and “Flirting and Sexual Advances.”

Email and Texts Outpace Face-to-Face Harassment

“Emails and texts” were listed by ELA members as the most-common method employees use in perpetrating sexual harassment.

Alcohol and the Workplace is a Problematic Combination

70 percent responded that alcohol use among employees has played a part in fostering harassment.

Section II: Employer Training and Prevention Tools and Effectiveness

In-House HR Competency to Conduct Investigations is a Concern

When asked how competent they feel in-house human resources professionals are in conducting internal investigations involving misconduct complaints, only 14 percent said “Very Competent,” while the vast majority, 81 percent, said only “Somewhat Competent.”

Neutral Third Party Investigators Strongly Recommended

By one of the widest margins in the poll, 91 percent of respondents noted that when high level executives are accused of harassment, outside investigators instead of in-house HR professionals should be utilized.

In-Person Beats Online Training

96 percent of ELA attorneys throughout the country are convinced that live classroom harassment prevention training is more effective and impactful. This finding is consistent with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s latest Enforcement Guidelines which state that online training is generally ineffective at preventing workplace harassment.

Section III: The #MeToo Movement

A Real Concern that Companies aren’t taking Sexual Harassment Seriously Enough

When asked if employers are taking sexual harassment training, prevention and response “Seriously Enough,” 46 percent of ELA respondents indicated that they are not.

Harassment Claims Rarely Fabricated

Only 6.5 percent of ELA respondents said that either “More Often Than Not” (6%) or “Most of the Time” (0.5%) complaints of harassment were fabricated.

A Rush to Judgment, Pressure to Publicize When Investigating Harassment Complaints

More than 70 percent of ELA respondents indicated that clients have concerns that there is a “rush to judgment” when harassment complaints are made.

More than half (51%) indicated that corporate clients are feeling either “Great Pressure” (6%) or “Some Pressure” (45%) to publicize results and disciplinary actions taken following a misconduct investigation.

Bracing for the #MeToo Backlash

A majority of ELA respondents, 57 percent, expressed that they are, either “Slightly Concerned” (44%) or “Very Concerned” (13%) that the #MeToo movement will create a backlash against women being promoted or hired.

Section IV: Office Romance and Fraternization

Office Romance Headaches

When asked how frequently their employer clients “have experienced complaints resulting from office romances,” more than 60 percent indicated that it was either somewhat or very frequent.

Non-Fraternization Policies: Only Somewhat Common, Not Widely Recommended

Only 8 percent of ELA survey respondents indicated that “more than 75 percent of their clients” have enacted non-fraternization policies. And, 64 percent of respondents answered “No” when asked if they recommend employers adopt such policies.

The “Pence Rule”; Refusing to Travel/Dine/Meet Alone with Opposite Sex

23 percent of ELA respondents indicated that it was “Somewhat Common” for managers to refuse to travel/dine/meet alone behind closed doors with colleagues of the opposite sex. This finding is significant given the concerns raised that women will face a backlash in the workplace.

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