How the “#MeToo Movement” Impacts Workplace Investigations of Sexual Harassment

BY Gene R. Thornton, Esq., AWI-CH

Metoo movement

The so-called “MeToo Movement” is a sea change in the way incidents of unwanted sexual attention and contact in the workplace are being viewed, reported, and addressed.  It is characterized by a virtual tsunami of incidents of alleged sexual misconduct being reported against supervisors, co-workers, industry moguls, politicians, celebrities and other power-players.  Caught up in this wave are men such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; former Vice President Joe Biden; Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation; NBC news Anchor Matt Lauer; actor Kevin Spacey; and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

What are the implications for employers investigating allegations of workplace sexual harassment in the #MeToo era?

First, employers are seeing alleged sexual misconduct brought to light many years after the alleged misconduct occurred.  By then, the alleged victim and alleged harasser may no longer be employed.  So, too, witnesses to the alleged harassment may be long gone.  This passage of time can make investigating alleged sexual harassment a herculean task.  Employers may have to rely upon hearsay accounts, or even media reports, in order to ascertain what did and did not occur.

Second, sometimes, the complaints are made after applicable statutes of limitations have expired.  This may insulate employers from legal liability, but does not protect them from adverse public opinion and tarnishing of corporate brands.  Moreover, the expiration of statutes of limitation will not excuse the failure to conduct an examination that is reasonable under the circumstances.  There may have been systemic failures in the organization that contributed to the problem, which linger on and must be effectively addressed in order to avoid future legal liability.

Third, the complaints of sexual harassment sometimes are lodged first, and possibly solely, in the traditional media or social media.  So, there is no opportunity for employers to handle the matter confidentially.

Fourth, employers are likely to see more and more sexual harassment complaints as women are emboldened to come forth with incidents they may have kept to themselves in years past.

Colorado Attorney Gene R. Thornton Will Conduct Your Workplace Investigation Thoroughly and Fairly

Fifth, it is all-the-more important for employers to retain a trained and experienced workplace investigator such as Attorney Gene R. Thornton to conduct investigations in a prompt, thorough, and fair manner.

To avoid becoming a #MeToo statistic, employers should contact Gene R. Thornton, Esq., AWI-CH at Thornton Workplace Investigations, LLC.

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