#MeToo: What HR Professionals Should Know

By Megan McQuade On May 25, 2018

Sexual harassment is a relevant topic right now. However, it has ALWAYS been relevant! In the last eight months, it's been thrust into the spotlight like never before by brave individuals choosing to speak up. An Instagram search of #metoo yields over 1 million posts! Clearly many individuals have something to say on this topic. What we are also witnessing is how underreported sexual harassment has been for years.

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So, what does this movement mean for HR professionals? Does it change how sexual harassment should be addressed?

Resources for HR professionals:

Many suggest that NOW is the time for HR professionals to review policies, refresh procedures, and revamp trainings related to workplace harassment. This blog is inspired by a recent presentation on the topic and designed to equip HR professionals with tools and resources moving forward. 

The beginning of me too:

The me too movement started before #MeToo. It was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke. The movement is designed to help victims of sexual assault find methods to healing. In Fall of 2017, #MeToo began as a way to share the magnitude of those affected by sexual harassment after celebrities began coming forward. Men and women have banded together using the hashtag to support one another and encourage each other to no longer live in silence. 

EEOC guidance:

Before #MeToo, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a report on 6/20/16 after the EEOC Select Task Force spent 18 months "examining the myriad and complex issues associated with harassment in the workplace." The report examines workplace harassment and seeks to identify creative ways to prevent and eliminate harassment. Below are a few of the resources the EEOC provides employers. Additional resources can be found on the EEOC website.

Recommended next steps for HR professionals:

It's important to evaluate your workplace culture. Think of workplace harassment at the end of a behavior spectrum. Appropriate behavior resides on one side of the spectrum and harassment lies at the other extreme. Where does your team fall on this spectrum? Does your leadership team understand what harassment is and the importance of preventing it? Below are suggested next steps as you reflect on your culture and implement strategies to prevent and address workplace harassment.

  • Review your anti-harassment policy. Update it using the EEOC guidance. If you don't have one, create one!
  • Establish reporting procedures with more than one way to come forward.
  • Offer routine interactive training for employees and leaders.
  • Model appropriate workplace behavior.

#MeToo Blog Inspiration:

Lorie Birk, Esq, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, spoke to SHRMGP on 5/24/18 about #MeToo. Lorie is an employment lawyer, owns her own HR and law consulting firm, and is the Senior Director of HR for a healthcare organization. In addition, she is the Past President of the Society of Human Resource Management of Greater Phoenix (SHRMGP) and currently sits on the Board of Directors for SHRMGP. Having someone speak on a topic such as #MeToo that has legal knowledge, hands-on training experience, and practical application is invaluable! Don't hesitate to reach out to Lorie if you are looking for additional consultation on workplace harassment or related topics.

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