How data and analytics insulate clients in MeToo era

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Jana Morrin was off to an auspicious start in the IT industry until everything went sideways. Her final seven months on the job were full of mind games, manipulation and subtle undertones of sexual harassment. Morrin wondered if she was overthinking uncomfortable interactions with her boss or just being too sensitive before deciding to leave.

Six months of reflection on what happened led her to co-found with an old friend a workplace mistreatment and resources platform called Speakfully. Together, they sought to help organizations navigate emotional landmines as much as employees who need to document abusive behavior without fear of retribution.

“It helps both sides,” she says, noting the importance of building a culture of trust, accountability and safety. “The employee is able to come forward with all the necessary information, but it also gives an organization what they need to investigate and take action.”

Stemming troublesome behavior
In a post-MeToo era, safety and trust at work are top priorities that come with a new set of expectations. The mission of HR professionals is to more effectively manage employee relationships and appropriately handle allegations of misconduct.

When disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of rape and sexual harassment in 2017, as many as 20% of working Americans admitted at that time they were also sexually harassed at work, according to a CNBC All-America survey of 800 U.S. adults. In 2018, there was a 14% increase in the number of sexual harassment claims filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While the number of charges made last year decreased, employers reportedly paid out a record $68.2 million to settle those cases.

Of more than 2,000 respondents to a 2017 Harris Poll for the Kapor Center for Social Impact, 78% said they faced other types of unfair treatment. An analysis of 2019 EEOC enforcement and litigation data show more than half of all charges were tied to retaliation, which led 10 categories. Other noteworthy areas included discrimination on the basis of a disability (33.4), race (33%) and sex (32%). Sexual harassment accounted for just 10.3% of all charges.

While technology streamlines the complaint process and drives metrics, human touches are still necessary to establish a comfort level. “I don’t think that building trust is telling a bot that you’ve been sexually harassed,” Deb Muller, CEO at HR Acuity, who spent about 20 years in HR in several roles before focusing on employee relations and workplace investigation solutions.

The key to eliminating workplace mistreatment and establishing a safe environment is proper documentation of abusive behavior, according to Moran, who recently began approaching benefit brokers and insurance companies about helping deliver this solution.

Her firm’s tech platform provides employees with a login to document their experiences in a time-stamped folder detailing where troubling incidents occurred and whether anyone witnessed them, as well as their impact on productivity, physical safety and mental wellbeing. There’s also an option to include attachments of hostile or inappropriate photos or screenshots of text messages. Metadata is then compiled into a in a report-style format and dashboard for HR that can be seen even prior to submission.

While Muller’s clients typically have at least 1,000 employees, she says smaller organizations that don’t have the resources can still take steps to prevent or respond to workplace mistreatment. They include creating a checklist in an Excel document featuring various issue categories and basic analytics to spot trends.

Simple documentation can go a long way toward resolving any conflicts. Muller recalls working with a tiny not-for-profit that encountered a dispute over the work status of an employee after she returned from maternity leave.

“The executive director said that the person requested to go part-time, and there was no documentation,” she says, noting the employee alleged she was pressured into that arrangement. “If that employer had just sent an email back saying, ‘hey, Mary, great conversation. Love having you back. We’re really excited to be able to offer you the part-time that you requested,’ that would have gone a long way.”

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Gender discrimination Gender issues Sexual harassment in the professional workplace HR Technology HR Technology Resource Center