By Samantha Bomkamp
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of human resources consulting firm StratEx, believes the #MeToo movement has put CEOs and other business leaders on notice that they need to address, and prevent, workplace harassment.
If 2017 was the year of a national reckoning on workplace sexual harassment, 2018 may be when reports from victims in cubicles and corner offices start piling up.
Here’s why that’s a good thing: Before companies can begin to rid the workplace of inappropriate behavior, observers say, employers need to go beyond handbooks and Powerpoint presentations to create an environment where employees feel safe and supported enough to report it.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates that three-fourths of all workplace harassment goes unreported, so as victims feel empowered, reports of sexual harassment may climb.
In a June 2016 report, more than a year before allegations against Harvey Weinstein were reported, the EEOC suggested managers be praised for an increase in sexual harassment complaints in their departments. Such an uptick would show that victims feel comfortable coming forward, the agency said.
Sexual harassment reporting has remained fairly steady over the last decade. The EEOC received nearly 27,000 complaints in 2016 that included an accusation of sex-based workplace harassment.
Just over 1,300 of those were in Illinois. That’s a slight increase from the previous two years.
Scott Fanning, a labor and employment attorney at Fisher Phillips, is among those who agree that harassment reports will likely increase in 2018 as more victims feel empowered to speak up.
He also believes the most serious forms of harassment will decline as some would-be perpetrators curb their behavior in light of extra-vigilant co-workers.
“The last thing employers want is to be the next #MeToo story in the news,” Fanning said.