Five Provocative Recommendations to Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Predators can attack in a variety of places, but as an HR professional, I am most disconcerted about abuse in the workplace.

The slew of women coming forward and sharing their experiences with director Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment, followed up by the “me too” social media campaign where millions of women have like wise shared being victims of sexual predators, has truly opened up the discussion around this sensitive topic. Women have been sharing their horrific experiences at the hands of sexual predators in various settings – at home, on the streets out in public, while on dates and even in the workplace.

As a human resources consultant, I find the stories of unaddressed sexual harassment in the workplace particularly upsetting. Women face tremendous risks, placing their livelihoods in jeopardy by reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, especially if it is at the hands of a powerful executive.

One of my close friends posted on Facebook in her “me too” entry:

When I reported the incident and spoke to the woman in HR, her response to me was : ” Oh, I know him…he would never do that!” A report was never filed.

Recently another close friend who I used to work with, an outstanding sharp junior executive, shared of an ongoing pattern of abuse from a senior executive who was so powerful that HR was slow and hesitant to address it. The result was early retirement and needing counseling for depression.

The number of women coming forward to report the abuse at the hands of film producer Harvey Weinstein is astounding. (photo – Business Insider)

Just maybe it is time for some drastic “out-of-the box” measures in corporate America to address this epidemic. Here are my five provocative recommendations:

1) All corporate boards of directors should institute strong policies that dictate that any sexual harassment charge be taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly, especially those against senior level people. And boards must personally take on this critical task and not delegate to internal management.

2) All corporate boards of directors should institute strong policies that protect all human resources practitioners from retaliation for thoroughly investigating workplace harassment charges, especially those against senior level people.

3) Any senior executive proven to have engaged in sexual harassment should be immediately discharged with all stock options and retirement benefits revoked. And to go a step further, those financial resources could be denoted to organizations addressing sexual abuse and harassment.

4) Any HR practitioner who does not take a harassment charge seriously and tries to minimize, excuse it or refuse to investigate it should have their SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) certifications (PHR – Professional of Human Resources) or SPHR (Senior Professional of Human Resources) revoked permanently, and even revocation of SHRM membership should be considered.

5) Any privately held companies without boards of directors that perpetrate a culture of harassment as acceptable or with boards who do not take the first two recommended actions above should be “blacklisted” by SHRM as “HR unfriendly companies.” SHRM should strongly discourage HR practitioners from working for them, thereby cutting these entities off from building professional HR organizations. Also boycotts against doing business with those companies or buying those companies goods or services could be encouraged by women and men who support fair treatment of women.

With the stunning amount of sexual abuse now being publicly exposed, how can we justify not taking strong action?

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