A new report, which includes the first full year of results since the #MeToo era began, shows an overall 18 percent increase in harassment reports during 2017 and 2018 with 41 percent of these reports substantiated.
Fear and failure
The research comes from ethics and compliance software and services company NAVEX Global in its 2019 Ethics & Compliance Hotline Benchmark Report. The results reflect the first year-over-year findings since the wave of high-profile sexual harassment allegations began in October 2017. Carrie Penman, chief compliance officer and senior vice president, advisory services, NAVEX Global, said “These findings reflect strong growth in the number of employees willing to speak out against harassment - and they should serve as notice to employers that #MeToo is a fundamental shift in employees’ willingness to tolerate harassment.” Ms Penmn added, “That said, the problem of harassing conduct is larger than these numbers reflect as many employees still fear reporting. Failed cultures, ineffective internal processes, fear of retaliation and lack of leadership support will continue to result in numbers that do not reflect the true pervasiveness of workplace harassment.” In addition to claims of sexual harassment, employees are also reluctant to raise reports of retaliation when they lack trust in internal processes. She explains, “reports of retaliation remain extremely low in comparison to the trends we are seeing in external reporting to government agencies. The gap between internal and external retaliation reporting should be concerning to all boards, executives and compliance professionals. It is time to focus the attention and resources needed to identify, address and prevent retaliatory behavior.”
The report also found a substantial 18 percent increase in discrimination reports in 2018. However, the substantiation rate of these cases remains significantly lower than the overall case substantiation rate of 29 percent. This is likely because discrimination claims, like retaliation claims, are often based on perceived behavior rather than on a clear statement or evidence, making these types of cases more difficult to prove. The 2019 hotline report is the first in which NAVEX Global received and analyzed over 1 million employee reports in a single year. One of the key findings is that availability and tracking of all report intake methods matters. Organizations that offer and track the full range of intake methods (hotline, web, open door, etc.) show a much higher reporting rate than do organizations that track only phone and web: 2.1 per 100 employees versus 1.1 per 100. Organizations in the latter category are missing a significant percentage of concerns and risks that employees could be raising. The report can be found here.