Harassment in the Workplace: Can Employers Afford NOT to Know?

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Awareness Technologies expert commentary regarding workplace harassment on the rise and how organizations should train employees on policies and record computer activity now more than ever.

Experts at Awareness Technologies, the leading provider of insider threat protection on demand advises that training employees on corporate harassment policies coupled with monitoring digital activity may help significantly reduce harassment in the workplace.

Over the past two months, there have been multiples cases of sexual harassment charges involving high ranking officials across our country. Whether Hollywood executives, politicians or corporate executives, all of these cases have one thing in common -- they involve the workplace.

Organizations associated with individuals facing sexual harassment charges can suffer costs on many levels. While companies may not see costs as high as The Weinstein Company which Forbes estimates to be $20-$40 million in investigative costs alone, harassment charge costs go beyond negative PR and poor morale in the workplace.

Companies facing harassment charges can absorb costs well beyond what they’d expect.

In a recent article, The Harvard Business Review reported that researchers estimate that sexual harassment costs organizations $22,500 a year in just lost productivity alone for each employee affected. On top of the larger legal costs involved. these cases can result in exorbitant costs that a company is not prepared for. Companies often settle these cases as they become too costly to defend in court. However, the costs can go on to include additional settlements to other employee harassment victims and increases in harassment insurance.

So, what can companies do to prevent harassment in their workplace? Many companies offer training to teach employees of corporate harassment policies in the workplace and how to report any violations.

But is training enough? Even with preventative training, the amount of cases reported continue to rise. Many cases may involve more than one employee. As we have seen in the media, additional harassment victims may feel encouraged to report their cases once the first one is filed.

Furthermore, with digital communication as the primary way employees interact in today’s workplace, these cases have become much easier to prove. Harassment is no longer isolated to inappropriate in-person incidents in the office, but now employers must consider the digital workplace.

“Employers not only need to make their harassment policies clear, but have a responsibility to remain aware of any inappropriate conduct in the workplace,” commented Brad Miller, CEO of Awareness Technologies. “If employers can see any warning signs before these situations violate policies, employers may be able to help prevent harassment in the workplace. Digital behavior is often the first sign, which makes employee monitoring software a very useful tool."

In California, an employee filed harassment charges against his company based on a disability after discovering that colleagues had created a blog containing derogatory comments about him in the workplace. The employer failed to take timely action and did not block access to blog from the workplace until two months after the case was reported. The court awarded the plaintiff $800,000 and ruled that that an employer can be liable for actions of nonsupervisory employees and failed to take remedial action.

Alternatively, in Puerto Rico, an employee filed a complaint against an employer claiming they made inappropriate racial comments towards her on Facebook. As soon as the company learned of the claim, they immediately blocked Facebook from all devices in the workplace. Because immediate action was taken, the court dropped the charges against the company stating that the company took prompt action to prevent alleged harassment in the workplace.

“In today’s digital age, employers need to take every precaution necessary to prevent harassment in the workplace and address any warning signs immediately,” added Miller. It is more important than ever for employers to not only educate employees on corporate harassment policies, but to also remain aware and monitor situations (including digital) before they have disastrous effects on the company. It is imperative that employers address any warning signs of harassment in a timely manner in both the physical and digital workplace.”

About Awareness Technologies:
As the pioneer in Unified Insider Threat Prevention, Awareness Technologies’ SaaS-based service is easily available and affordable for businesses of any size. Architected at the endpoint, clients can access 4 technologies including DLP, web filtering, employee computer and mobile monitoring and laptop recovery, through one agent download and one control console. Awareness Technologies has over 10,000 businesses world-wide currently depending on its solutions to protect their data from insider threats, and has been named on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, Inc. 5000 and Software 500. Awareness Technologies products are Citrix Ready and VMware Ready.

Awareness Technologies Contact:
Michael Goldberg
VP Corporate Marketing
mgoldberg(at)awarenesstechnologies(dot)com

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Michael Goldberg
Awareness Technologies
+1 888-550-3130 Ext: 425
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