THE “ME TOO” MOVEMENT: WILL INCREASED AWARENESS RESULT IN ADDITIONAL REPORTING IN THE WORKPLACE SIMILAR TO THE TREND ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES?
While the “Me Too” Movement has shed light on sexual harassment in the workplace, college campuses have been expanding their oversight of sexual harassment and assault since 2011.
Both Title IX and Title VII address sexual harassment. You may be less familiar with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act which protects students from sexual harassment by teachers, professors, and other school authorities, as well as, from sexual assault. As you most likely know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Prior to the “Me Too” Movement, college campuses were working to change campus culture by educating students as to the seriousness of incidents that they may not have otherwise reported. In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that expanded college oversight in sexual assault cases and permitted punishment for “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” As a result, college campuses increased their Title IX offices to assist students in identifying and reporting sexual harassment and assault. These changes have resulted in a steady rise in reporting the unwelcome conduct. Most campuses continue this expanded oversight even though the “Dear Colleague” letter was revoked by the Department of Education in July of 2017.
In a similar way, the “Me Too” Movement has caused companies to take another look at their harassment policies to ensure that they adequately encourage employees to report misconduct. Employers are also promoting additional harassment training in order to educate employees and supervisors. One key issue for employers is whether they continue to conduct internal investigations through their HR Department or whether a third-party investigator is necessary to avoid the appearance of bias and maintain objectivity.
Nevertheless, it is still too early to determine whether the “Me Too” Movement will result in an increase in the reporting of sexual harassment complaints in a similar way that occurred on college campuses.