Oct 10, 2019

#MeToo movement drives more state-mandated sexual harassment training

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A handful of new, individual state regulations has resulted in mandatory sexual harassment training for 20% of the workers in the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

Context: That means 1 in 5 workers are now offered such education, as opposed to 1 in 100 as of 2 years ago, Bloomberg adds.

Why it matters: The #MeToo movement got off the ground roughly 2 years ago and spurred unprecedented misconduct reporting in Hollywood and in the media, as well as by other workers who withstood harassment in their workplaces.

Driving the news: This week, New York state passed a law requiring organizations to teach employees about harassment and simplify the process to file and track complaints.

Meanwhile, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington and Illinois passed or revamped laws over the past 2 years to expand training options.

  • Tech and media companies, including Google, as well as political offices continue to grapple with public demand to improve the process around sexual harassment.
  • Recently, individual states have passed a variety of laws limiting forced arbitration, nondisclosure agreements and other policies that could discourage employees from reporting harassment, Bloomberg notes.

Many companies already provided materials for sexual harassment training, but a 2015 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force found that the training largely existed to protect employers from lawsuits instead of teaching people how to spot and report bad behavior.

Background: Workplace sexual harassment was deemed illegal in a 1986 Supreme Court ruling.

  • Two court rulings in the late '80s set a precedent that a business could defend itself against some sexual harassment claims, as long as that organization had a stated and enforceable policy against the practice.

But, but, but: Three-quarters of incidents still go unreported, government data estimates. And more than a third of American workers said they believe their workplace fosters sexual misconduct, per a 2019 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

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American workers say #MeToo movement won't change workplace culture

Activists participate in the 2018 #MeToo March in November 2018 in Hollywood, California. Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images

Most Americans say the nationwide sexual misconduct and racial diversity conversations will have little impact in their own place of work, according to a poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Why it matters: Allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace are on the rise. More than 7,600 sexual harassment claims were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions in 2018, a 14% bump from the year before.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

Google CEO: The company is "genuinely struggling" with transparency, employee trust

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in May 2019. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees at an all-staff meeting this week that "it's definitely gotten harder" to see how to make improvements after breaking employees' trust at the company's current scale, the Washington Post reports.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ina Fried: Google has prided itself on having a vocal employee base. In recent months, the tech giant has struggled with handling workers who question its every move and want a say in everything from who is hired or retained to who the company does business with.

Go deeperArrowOct 26, 2019

Former Fox News employees want release from their NDAs

Gretchen Carlson. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

At least six former Fox News employees are calling on their old network to release them from nondisclosure agreements in order to allow them to speak out about potential sexual misconduct during their time at the company, Vanity Fair reports.

Driving the news: NBC News announced Friday it will release former employees from NDAs as it tries to control the damage stemming from allegations in former NBC reporter Ronan Farrow's new book, "Catch and Kill." The former staffers at Fox News — including former host Gretchen Carlson, the first woman to publicly file a lawsuit against former CEO Roger Ailes — are asking the network to follow suit.

Go deeperArrowOct 28, 2019