New laws alone won’t be enough for substantive change. Companies also have to set a tone from the top for a good workplace.
“It can’t just be HR managers. It needs to be driven by leadership,” said Chris Bryant, president and CEO of the San Diego Employers Association. “You show that you are consistent and demonstrate accountability for people’s actions. You make sure that you have policies in place that can address this, and that you have a trusted and accessible complaint procedure.”
According to a survey conducted last year by the Harvard Business Review, few employees reported substantial changes in their workplace after the #MeToo Movement. Just 23 percent of women and 17 percent of women said they had seen tangible changes in the workplace that made them confident the system will respond appropriately, and just 16 percent of women and 14 percent of men said their workplace had introduced new policies.
“It’s not just the facts (of the case), it’s the environment that matters,” said John Niedernhofer, director of Marsh & McLennan Insurance Agency’s business insurance division. “Do you have a deeply ingrained training regime? Can you skip it — is it just given a whitewash? Employees can get badly punished for the environment you create.”
Companies should conduct a thorough and neutral investigation any time they receive a complaint, and document it. Employees should know who they can go to, and should be able to take complaints to someone besides their manager. Some companies might even opt to set up an anonymous hotline.
“I think any great employer in 2019 is going to take any complaint of harassment of any kind very seriously,” said Marie Burke Kenny, a partner with Procopio. “Before you even get to the court system, employers are taking it a lot more seriously, as they should.”