HR and sexual harassment in the workplace – Metro US

HR and sexual harassment in the workplace

Matt Lauer. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. These are just a few men making headlines for having sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations brought against them in recent weeks, but we shouldn’t be shocked to hear of such cases, especially those related to the workplace, as Lauer’s reportedly was.

“It has created a moment in time where women can speak their truth. Women have been experiencing these things at work forever, and they finally feel there is enough critical mass for them to stand together,” Jaime Klein, founder of New York-based Inspire Human Resources, told Metro Wednesday.

Metro reached out to Klein, whose 10-year-old company’s wheelhouse includes HR consulting, training and programs to create a diverse and inclusive culture, to find out how these headlines are changing office cultures and HR practices. 

“I really think HR can move the needle on making a safer space for women,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the venue or the ZIP code — women need to feel they can report what happened and have a safe space without retaliation.”

Metro: Have clients reached out in the wake of all these allegations?

Jaime Klein: My inbox is blowing up. I’ve had senior leaders who are male say, “I want to make sure that I do a deeper look at my leadership team and ensure that nothing has happened that I am not aware of.” The second round has been companies who have been identified and currently in the press about allegations, and we are starting to work with them on how to create a safer place for women at work and a better culture for everyone.

Were you surprised by that outreach?

I was not surprised. I was delighted that an underlying issue that has been in organizations for decades is being addressed. I felt like it was overdue.

Men are also victims of harassment. Have you had outreach for those instances?

I have not had any requests from males, but I think that will come next.

Many people kind of look at HR as the enemy because they fear retaliation. What can workers do if they feel that way?

If they don’t think they can go to HR, find someone who feels familiar that you can speak to or a mentor or leader that you can confide in.

What should HR departments do to ensure a safe haven for victims?

I really feel like HR is the first responder when someone comes forward, so the words and body language that HR uses shows how safe it is and should push the leadership team to do a full investigation. More and more people are going to be speaking out. It’s so important for organizations to do a quick check in this moment to surface things before the press does. My rule of thumb is zero tolerance; if it resurfaces, you part ways.