The #MeToo movement went viral on social media in October of 2017 as victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault shared their stories of abuse.
While the movement gained attention in the news and on social outlets, it also had an impact on the workplace: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigates complaints of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, saw a 12 percent increase in complaints filed from that October to September 2018.
Victoria Lipnic, then the acting chair of the EEOC, added that the number of sexual harassment claims increase while the number of overall workplace complaints dropped.
“The impact of the #MeToo movement is undeniable,” she said.
These numbers tell an important story. It is not that the number of workplace sexual assaults increased, but that the victims felt more empowered to report them. The #MeToo movement showed victims that they should not fear reprisal from making claims against co-workers, even if that person is a direct supervisor or in a leadership position.
Federal agencies are not immune to these types of complaints. Like any workplace, federal employees can file complaints against co-workers for inappropriate behavior. The #MeToo movement increased the visibility of these cases, which far too often in the past were not handled appropriately.
Victims often felt they could not report such cases for fear of retaliation, embarrassment, or shame. The #MeToo movement empowered many to bring their stories forward, something federal agencies need to ensure they are properly equipped to handle.
Like other large organizations, federal agencies must thoughtfully and responsibly investigate each of these claims, treating all parties involved with care and respect. In order to do so, agencies must have the proper systems in place to manage these employee complaints.
Far too often, federal agencies rely on outdated systems to manage employee grievances, typically using an overly complex and inefficient process involving SharePoint, Excel and manual data entry. This causes inherent problems as human resources staff find themselves with a backlog of cases that cannot be responded to in a proper amount of time or get lost in the administrative shuffle.
This is not acceptable for any type of employee grievances, but especially not for cases involving sexual harassment and sexual assault. Federal agencies need to leverage EEOC compliance systems that can manage these claims, allowing them to be investigated in a timely manner. By ensuring that these cases get the respect they deserve, agencies ensure that those filing the cases get their story heard.
Advocate by Symplicity provides a centralized system that allows for employees to file grievances on a safe and secure system. Stakeholders in the claim get reminders and updates that the case is moving forward as it should, ensuring to alleged victims that it is not being forgotten or dismissed without due process.
The #MeToo movement has empowered victims to come forward. Federal agencies need to have the right tools to manage the increase in cases to create a work environment where employees know their grievances will be heard and respected.
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