Can Apps Help Eradicate Sexual Harassment in Massachusetts?

| Mar 17, 2020 | Employment Law |

The #MeToo movement is about giving sexual assault and harassment victims in Massachusetts

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the courage to speak up. And the recent conviction of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is an indication that those who speak up will be believed. But, despite these encouraging trends, many still choose to remain silent when it comes to reporting issues like sexual harassment. New apps aimed at empowering victims are hoping to change that.

In order for real change to occur, organizations need to be aware of misconduct when it occurs in their workplaces. If sexual harassment is not reported, a perpetrator can continue to harass for years without any repercussions. Until Gretchen Carlson brought charges, Roger Ailes allegedly harassed over twenty women at Fox News. But the reason these women didn’t report sooner is that it’s not easy to come forward. One large-scale study found that only about 6% of sexually harassed workers take any formal action and report the incident, and less than 1% of victims file formal charges.

Why the reluctance to report? When assessing the costs and benefits of reporting, many conclude it’s just more advantageous to remain silent. Some victims fear it will reflect poorly on themselves or that they will suffer retaliation or professional consequences. Others feel they will not be believed or that the incidents are not serious enough to report. Some express concern that their organization will ignore their complaints. Until management makes it clear to employees that the company will act appropriately when they become aware of a violation, employees will continue to favor silence. Silence is just the best option.

New apps are aiming to give employees better alternatives. Hoping to empower more employees to report problems, these apps, including #NotMe and Vault Platform, are making it easier for employees to report these issues to their organization. The app brings the power back to the people who have experienced or perceived misconduct and are ready to stand up and say #NotMe.”

Perhaps most empowering for victims is the message sent by organizations that adopt these platforms. These organizations are clearly indicating that they want to hear about any misconduct and will take reports seriously. And this message seems to be getting through to employees. Vault Platform reports that their clients have seen a 40% uptick in reports after adopting the platform.

Anonymity Increases The Likelihood Of Reports

Another explanation for the uptick in reports for these organizations is that app users can submit their reports anonymously. Anonymous reporters need not fear repercussions, because nobody knows the identity of the person who reported the harassment. While some organizations have offered anonymous reporting hotlines for years, the apps offer one key benefit over hotlines. The organization can conduct follow-up, ask questions and offer help via the app, all while preserving the anonymity of the individual reporting the harassment. About 50% of the reports submitted to date on #NotMe have been anonymous.

Not everyone is a fan of anonymous reporting. Some researchers suggest that encouraging employees to speak up anonymously about any topic may inadvertently reinforce a message that it’s not safe to speak up. They say, allowing employees to remain unidentified actually underscores the risks of speaking up and reinforces people’s fears. The subtext is, ‘It’s not safe to share your views openly in this organization. So we’ve created other channels to get the information we need.’

However, others feel that the app can function to re-establish trust between the employee and employer, and ultimately empowers victims to identify themselves. In either case, anonymous or identified, reporting is always the best option. Reports allow the organization to be alerted to issues when they arise, which allows them to intervene and course-correct before problems get out of hand.

Some agree that anonymity is not ideal, but is still necessary. The Vault Platform was created to help companies create an environment where people feel safe to speak up and even identify themselves. They recognize that there is still work to do for most cultures to get to that point, so anonymity is still important.

In addition to the anonymous reporting option, users of the Vault Platform app have another compelling alternative. The GoTogether feature enables employees to submit their reports under the condition that they’re not the first or only person complaining about a particular perpetrator. What was learned from the #MeToo movement, even in its very name, is that strength in numbers matters. The GoTogether feature has already been used in the companies that implemented Vault, and according to their own research, women are up to eight times more likely to report with GoTogether than anonymously. Vault estimates that only 30% of their reports are anonymous.

The apps contain several other features that benefit both victims and organizations. For example, employees can use the apps to keep a record of harassing behavior without reporting. This record-keeping may help employees who think that one particular incident isn’t egregious enough to report but want to document an incident in case the misconduct continues to occur.

#NotMe allows users to report harassment regardless of whether their employer has adopted the #NotMe platform. #NotMe users will hear from an expert who can assess their needs and offer referrals and advice within 48 hours.

Awareness Is The First Step To Eliminating Harassment

In general, organizations are better off when their employees feel that they are free to voice their concerns. Several studies show that organizations that encourage employees to speak up have increased retention and stronger performance. But it’s not always easy, and in the short term, it’s sometimes less complicated for an organization to remain in the dark.

Awareness of misconduct creates more work, but lack of awareness causes even greater organizational problems that will take much longer to address. To eradicate sexual misconduct from the workplace, organizations need to step up and address the problems head-on. Awareness of the issues is the critical first step, and any tools organizations can use to encourage employees to speak up are helpful.

When you call us to discuss a potential sexual harassment claim, we listen with care and compassion. We also pledge to address your concerns honestly, presenting an accurate portrayal of what you can expect as you move forward. Attorney Lazar will offer guidance on how to handle your current job, as appropriate, and will explain the process of filing a claim. With our experience, we know that confronting the issue of sexual harassment is very difficult and extremely personal. That is why we take the time to help you weigh the benefits of filing your claim, including the compensation you could receive, whether your job could be restored, and other positive outcomes. You deserve to be well-informed before making a decision about how to proceed. We are here to help you and charge no attorneys’ fees unless you collect compensation.

Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to get the help you need.

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