A Likely Increase in Sexual Harassment Claims

Nov 23, 2017 by

It’s been clear from recent events that the culture of abuse is changing. Increasingly, women in particular but men also are speaking out about different forms of abuse they have suffered and kept silent. So far, most of those who have paid the price have been in the media, but that is only because those are the most well-known names. It’s likely this will continue at a more local level, especially considering the success seen by those making the accusations.

What does that mean for everyday life? Very likely, many jobs will see an increase in sexual harassment training, both for those who may abuse their position and those who may be taken advantage of. With so much fall out not just for the abuses but for coverups, more companies will likely push very publicly for more openness and fewer consequences for those who come forward.

All of this, most will agree, can be taken as a net positive for society. It’s clear that far too many people have been taken advantage of and far too few have felt there was support within their organizations and in the culture, in general, to come forward earlier. The fact they feel they can come forward now speaks well of how far our society has come in recent decades.

However, there are potentially some negative consequences. First of all, there may be some lumping of egregious crimes (like those perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein) and more banal offenses. While the latter can still cause harm and should be dealt with, painting with a broad brush can lead to dire consequences for actions that were thought harmless at the time. It’s easy to imagine managers being fired for a poorly considered joke in a moment of poor judgment, for instance, when a bit of stern disciplining would be more appropriate.

There is also the less common but still potential possibility of false claims being made. While it’s important not to dismiss the vast majority of cases because of this very rare problem, it could, in certain highly ambitious circles, be employed as character assassination. Such charges, according to the law firm Kohler, Hart, and Powell, permanently destroy a person’s reputation.

A further issue may be a flooding in of claims that could be disruptive to the work environment. While it is again very positive that serious issues (and even minor offenses) be brought forward if all are on the lookout for offense and come forward all at once, the potential for chaos in an office increases.

The fact some unfortunate consequences may occur in tandem with this social change does not in any way mean the change should be discouraged. It is simply important for businesses to be aware both of the likely increase of claims and also the potential for some extra complexity in the work environment. With a little forward planning, these problems can be minimized, and the workplace can be improved without any negative issues.

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