Five Things Organizations Still Get Wrong About Sexual Harassment

Even well-meaning organizations continue to botch their harassment training, investigation, and disciplining practices, leaving themselves vulnerable to both legal liability and loss of talent.

Reading Time: 10 min 


Permissions and PDF

Alice Mollon

Although the #MeToo movement shed light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, employers have been slow to make any substantial changes to address the harassment epidemic. As a result, organizations often find themselves in indefensible positions when they are sued for sexual harassment.

The talent retention risks to organizations are significant on their own. Then there are the legal and financial risks. Good employees will not only leave bad organizations but also sometimes sue them. Despite the drop in the number of claims during the height of COVID-19 era, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that monetary benefits awarded to plaintiffs were nonetheless more than 30% higher in 2022 than they were at the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017. Final figures for 2023 are apt to be significantly higher, particularly given the historic $215 million awarded to plaintiffs in a settlement reached with Goldman Sachs in May 2023.

Companies need to tackle their exposure head-on. Much of an organization’s liability hinges on its overall climate with respect to sexual harassment. Although this may sound like a subjective assessment, harassment climates essentially boil down to three components: preventive measures, investigations of complaints, and penalties for harassers.

For more than 16 years, I have served as an expert witness in dozens of discrimination and harassment cases in the U.S. I have seen the actions and failures to act that allow harassment to fester and leave organizations vulnerable in the face of a lawsuit. While laws and norms regarding sexual harassment vary from country to country, certain employment practices are universally better than others. Based on my experience, here are five things even well-meaning organizations are still getting wrong about sexual harassment.

Offering training that is not apt to be effective. Training is one of the primary means of preventing sexual harassment. In the U.S., some states currently require all employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training, while others require only public employers to provide training, simply recommend that training be provided, or offer no guidance. But even before the #MeToo movement, a survey of human resources professionals found that 71% of their employers provided some sort of training.


Reprint #:


More Like This

Add a comment

You must to post a comment.

First time here? Sign up for a free account: Comment on articles and get access to many more articles.