Sexual harassment has been in the forefront of everyone’s minds and dominated the news cycle for much of the past few months. It has so permeated our culture that the #MeToo movement was recently named Time’s Person of the Year.
For those who don’t work in media, entertainment or politics, the key question is likely whether or not the repercussions powerful men in these industries have faced will come to pass for other harassers in their own workplaces.
Many companies are likely to renew their efforts in sexual harassment training, even though Arizona law does not require it. The increased visibility of the issue will give many human resources professionals the momentum they need to encourage business owners and managers to implement new training.
And in Arizona, it is likely needed: The Arizona Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that sexual harassment cases fluctuated over the past five years, but that the charges were largely consistent. This has occurred at the same time that national sexual harassment charges have slightly decreased.
However, while many HR departments may be proactive as sexual harassment prevention and punishment are in the zeitgeist, the unfortunate truth for employees is that many other HR departments are not always on the side of the accuser. In fact, some HR departments could see an accuser, not the accused, as the threat to the company, even if the accused is creating a hostile work environment. Ultimately HR’s function is in many cases to protect the company, not the employee.
Whether or not the #MeToo movement and the high-profile sexual harassment cases lead to more punitive measures for harassers in other industries is largely dependent upon the actions HR departments are willing to take. But if a company does not appear to be willing to take action, employees still have options to have their voices heard in sexual harassment cases.