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How to Prevent #MeToo in the Workplace

Thursday, March 1, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kristine Thomas
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HOW TO PREVENT #MeToo FROM HAPPENING IN THE WORKPLACE

 

It thrived on the silence of women, who were afraid to confront their perpetrators. And the women's trepidation to address the problem only enabled the offenders, granting them impunity.

 

Until last fall when 84 women shattered the silence by accusing movie producer Harvey Weinstein of alleged sexual harassment and assault. By stepping out of their fear to share their stories, those women provided the courage for other women to come forward, voicing allegations of unwarranted sexual advances by prominent men including journalists, politicians, professional athletes, celebrities and CEOs.

 

Once the floodgates broke, people from all backgrounds, occupations and ages turned to social media to share their #MeToo stories of unwanted sexual advancements in the workplace from factories to classrooms and corporate offices to government chambers.

 

Understanding a safe workplace is essential to the success of every business, Strategic Economic Development Corporation or SEDCOR is hosting "How to prevent #MeToo in the workplace" at noon Wednesday, March 14 at the Broadway Commons in Salem. To register for the lunch, visit sedcor.co.

 

Guest speakers and attorneys David Briggs of Saalfeld Griggs PC and Luke Reese of Garrett Hemann Robertson PC will share what businesses can do to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, what signs to look for and how to respond to allegations.

 

Reese and Briggs will be joined by Suzi Alligood, a third-party human resources professional from Xenium, a member of the Stoller family of businesses.  A vice president of people development and culture, Alligood assists employers manage the many sensitive issues triggered by a harassment report, both navigating legal risk and working to bring the entire work force together as they addresses and ultimately learn from these experiences.

 

A partner at Saalfeld Griggs, Briggs' practice focuses on employment law and litigation. He counsels employers in the areas of employment advice, business litigation and employment litigation.

 

"Employers, now more than ever, need to be proactive in ensuring that their workplaces are free from harassment and discrimination," Briggs said.

 

Both Briggs and Reese shared companies, government agencies and nonprofits should be taking steps to create safe and comfortable working environments for its employees.

 

"It is also imperative that employers are prepared for times when employees allege that there is harassment or discrimination in the workplace," Briggs added.

 

Reese is a shareholder at Garret Hemann Robertson, where his litigation practice focuses on employment and labor law, civil litigation and human resource consultation.

 

"Companies of all sizes need to take preventative measures in stopping sexual harassment from occurring," Reese said. "The first step is understanding what sexual harassment is and ensuring your companies has a zero tolerance policy in place."

In January, a nonprofit agency called Stop Street Harassment discovered in its online survey that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime, according to a National Public Radio article. This equates to 4 out of 10 men and 8 out of 10 women. Most sexual harassment incidents are never reported because victims fear losing their jobs, being called a liar or the harassment escalating.

 

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964<https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm>. While the federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, Oregon's law places the threshold at one employee. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

 

"I commend SEDCOR for taking a proactive approach to discussing how to prevent sexual harassment," Briggs said. "I understand many people are uncomfortable talking about it or believe they have the policies in place to prevent it in their business, but from my experience, I can share that's not always the case."

 

While the #MeToo movement has made it easier for people to share incidents, Reese said many people never discuss what happened.

 

"Sexual harassment often goes unreported because the victim fears they won't be believed or retaliation such as losing their job," Reese said. "It's important every business has a 100 percent safe method for employees to report incidents."

 

As a husband and a father to five children including two daughters, Briggs said education is the key component to putting a stop to sexual harassment.

 

"From the company's CEO to its managers to its human resource department, there needs to be a clear and consistent message that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment," Briggs said. "That message starts at the top with the CEO/President and that's why I encourage them to attend this lunch and learn how critical their role is in curbing sexual harassment at their workplace."

 


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