How to prep for flood of #MeToo complaints

The #MeToo social media campaign highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace exploded into the national consciousness in October 2017. Soon, dozens of harassers in the entertainment, journalism and political realms found themselves outed and fired.

At the time, experts predicted that in the coming year, HR departments would soon be inundated with sexual harassment complaints. There’s evidence that is happening.

In a recent NPR radio interview, Society for Human Resource Management CEO Johnny Taylor reported that #MeToo has created an “HR level of activity like nothing we’ve ever seen.” Taylor said he recently surveyed a room full of HR pros, who all reported they were dealing with harassment complaints.

How should employers respond to what could be a flood of sexual harassment complaints?

First, review your records to see how many complaints you have had in the past and how you resolved them.

Were many cases settled? The agreements probably included confidentiality clauses. That may signal more cases on the way. Reason: Employers that essentially kept cases hidden may not have felt compelled to change the underlying behavior that created the sexually hostile work environment in the first place.

Haven’t received a sexual harassment complaint lately? Don’t be complacent. Take steps to reinforce your existing anti-harassment programs you have.

Update policies and training materials using recent EEOC guidance found at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm.

Finally, if you do receive a complaint based on events that occurred too long ago to be the subject of an EEOC complaint and subsequent lawsuit, consider investigating thoroughly anyway.

Nothing prevents you from taking action against the harasser even if the victim can’t sue you. Doing so shows your commitment to a harassment-free workplace and might dissuade others from more acts of harassment.