The #MeToo movement has shed light on decades of abuse by business leaders and celebrities, and has brought justice to victims across all industries. Employers must be more sensitive to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination, and put structures in place to respond appropriately and in a timely manner.
Sexual harassment cases are costly for employers. In addition to legal fees, the costs associated with reputation damage can be extensive. And as Ms. Ronickher notes, the everyday cost of absent or unproductive employees who are facing emotionally challenging times because of their harassment only compounds the costs.
Companies should recognize where their employees may encounter problems and proactively lower the potential for sexual harassment in their workplaces. As Ms. Ronickher puts it, “Assess whether your company has risk factors.”
These could be alcohol consumption at business dinners, a decentralized workplace where people interact one-on-one in an isolated setting, or a lack of diversity, which limits management’s insight into what could be problematic for employees.
Some companies have been proactive – such as hotels that instituted panic buttons for housekeepers in case of emergency – but many other workplaces have fallen short. The goal should not just be a workplace technically and legally free of harassment, but an office where everybody feels comfortable – a difference that Ms. Ronickher believes is shrinking.
“Our national view of what is and isn’t severe and pervasive and what does or doesn’t alter terms of conditions of work will evolve because of this discussion.”
Listen to the full episode below.