sexual harassment

Sexual harassment – What can HR learn from the Harvey Weinstein case?

Sexual harassment – What can HR learn from the Harvey Weinstein case?

More than a dozen women have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexually harassing, assaulting or raping them. It has been an ‘open secret’ for decades that the US film industry pretended they didn’t know and ignored. Other females have also had similar experience with the American film producer, who has denied any non-consensual sex. As a result, Weinstein has been fired following the numerous allegations of his sexual misconduct and his wife has left him.


All of the women in the Harvey Weinstein case all have one thing in common, they weren’t employees of Harvey Weinstein. They were all entrepreneurs pitching start-ups or actresses seeking roles meaning there would be no path to file a complaint with HR. An executive said employees didn’t complain to human resources because everything goes back to Harvey.


What should you do as an employer?

All sexual harassment claims should be addressed and resolved in a sensitive and intelligent manner, which will help to maintain and improve staff loyalty and retention. This helps to prevent any dismissals or unnecessary law suits. The employee’s satisfaction will also increase because they’ll know that their employer will be there to listen and support the employee.


An employer has the legal, ethical and employee relations obligation to thoroughly investigate the charges. The employer mustn’t ignore an employee’s claim and should take their word for it and investigate the potential harassment. Even if the employer hears rumours that sexual harassment is occurring in the workplace, the employer must take action.


It’s important there is faith in the workplace so that if an employee raises a sensitive concern, they can be dealt with in a supportive manner. All employers should have an Equal Opportunities policy in their business. This demonstrates that a business treats all their employees with dignity and respect. Employers should also have stated in their employment handbooks clear Harassment and Grievance policies.


What shouldn’t you do as an employer?

The board of directors may not want to take any sexual harassment claims made against a key member of staff any further. This is because the member of staff could generate a lot of profit for the company even though if it wasn’t a key member of staff, it is more than likely that the claims would be taken further. This doesn’t comply with the Equality Act as all workers should be treated the same. An employer covering up a wrongdoing can be more damaging and harmful than the wrongdoing itself.


Tips for employers

All employers should reiterate and repost the organisations sexual harassment policies across the whole of the workplace. It’s essential all of your employees are given the same treatment. This helps to build trust and morale in the workplace. As an employer, your actions send powerful signals out to your employees and this is important because it shows them what they can expect in similar circumstances.


A legal tip for employers would be to avoid any possibility or appearance that the complaint made by the employee was ignored. An ethical tip for employers would be to not allow such behaviour to exist in the workplace. In all cases, its important you write and keep complete all accurate documentation. An employee may not be satisfied with the results of your company’s investigation and they could take additional legal advice.


If you need advice or have any questions on dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, please contact a member of the HPC team…


T: 0844 800 5932


Twitter: @HPC_HRservices

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