Across Wisconsin and the nation, the #MeToo movement has encouraged women to speak up about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Men in high-profile positions in politics, government, entertainment and other industries have been removed after accusations of sexual misconduct were leveled.
#MeToo has made employers take a hard look at the way they handle complaints about sexual harassment, retaliation and sexual assault in the workplace. Employment contracts, policies, employee agreements, worker training and more are being reexamined. An employment law attorney wrote recently that employers continue to make mistakes in the #MeToo era.
The attorney noted that many employers mistakenly believe that if there have not been many complaints about sexual harassment, their company has done a good job. Unfortunately, a lack of complaints might indicate that employees fear retaliation if they complain or that they will not be believed.
Another mistake that can be costly: failure to immediately, thoroughly investigate all harassment complaints. It is not only the right thing for employers to do, but failing to properly, promptly investigate complaints can also create legal exposure for the company.
Employers who trust that confidentiality agreements signed long ago will keep sexual harassment complaints out of the public eye are also making a mistake, the lawyer writes. She notes that employees and their employment law attorneys are finding ways around restrictions agreed to years ago. In some situations, it is clear that the employers themselves breached the confidentiality agreements and in other cases, complaints are made public by the EEOC or a state agency.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of all in these matters is to ignore complaints of workplace sexual harassment.
If you have suffered sexual harassment or retaliation for registering a complaint, contact an employment law attorney to discuss your legal options.