Increased number of Ohio companies working to improve harassment policies

Posted at 6:11 PM, Dec 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-19 23:27:36-05

About one in five Americans have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new study released on Tuesday. Companies here in Ohio are now changing office policies to stop the trend.

Lawyer Sindy Warren, Principal of Sindy Warren and Associates, works as a HR consultant. She said in the past, the number of companies coming forward to improve their workplace harassment policies were not that common.

“Usually, maybe one company a month or one company every other month,” Warren said.

But those numbers have changed in just the past month. Warren said about half a dozen companies have recently requested that she look into their policies. She said the reporting policy has improved for many of the companies.

“You don't want the policy to only say tell your supervisor, because what if the supervisor is the one doing the harassing,” she said.

Warren said it’s important for employers to give women and men multiple avenues, other than just their direct supervisor, to report incidents.

“So not just titles of people, but even names and phone numbers,” said Warren.

In addition, many of the companies she worked with needed a stricter retaliation provision. She said many people don't come forward, because they are afraid it may ruin their careers.

“It's a concern that is rooted in some truth in the past,” said Warren. “It used to be that for sure, if you complain, you might be blackballed in an industry. That's what happened with a lot of Harvey Weinstein’s victims or alleged victims.”

Warren said she has now been asked by companies to directly train employees about workplace harassment. She added that its best for employers and employees to tackle even minor incidents early on, before they escalate into full-fledged harassment.

Since the #MeToo campaign, Warren said her workload has tripled when it comes to independent investigations on workplace harassment.

“There are some emotional ups and downs of riding that wave,” she said.

According to Warren, some of the severe allegations in her investigation turned out not to be true, while other outwardly minor cases resulted in egregious findings. She said she never assumes. She described her increased workload as stressful, but rewarding.

“It's really a privilege to be working in this space at this time to help organizations become better workplaces and more respectful workplaces,” said Warren.

She suggested employers should update their harassment policies at least every other year.