Sexual harassment: how american companies protect themselves

Hollywood ? Select the check box. Silicon Valley ? Check the box ? The big american companies ? Silence… For months, the media are focused on the environment macho hi-tech and, since the case of Weinstein, one of the film industry. The rest of it ? On the prevention of sexual harassment, does anyone know where is the America of big business…

There are many cases that appear here or there. In August, Ford has amicably resolved (with a cheque for 10 million dollars) with a series of accusations of harassment against employees at two plants in Chicago. In Miami, this month, the giant health United HealthCare has also settled a case of harassment of a frame with a vice-president ($1.8 million, a record for a charge of harassment of a person of the same sex). Amicable settlement, again and again, to General Electric last year : an employee of a research centre had been subject to intimidation from his colleagues, who consulted openly about the porn sites and scotchaient erotic pictures on the machines. The cases are therefore sometimes public, but it is rare and, in the three examples cited, the employers have admitted no fault.

Training anti harassment

Then ? The good news, first. Since several decisions of the supreme Court, in 1998, the companies know that they are legally responsible for the behaviour of their employees, even if the victims do not report to their superiors. Suddenly, the large companies have put in place strict codes of conduct. “We do not tolerate harassment or inappropriate conduct “, which specifies for example the code of JPMorgan Chase. The one from Walmart (2.2 million employees) list precisely the actions to be avoided, such as a ” language, sexually explicit jokes, remarks on the physiognomy of a person “. Most major companies have also put in place training programmes, which are legally mandatory in three States. In California, for example, the State requires business leaders to follow an anti-harassment training every two years.

The bad news ? According to a recent study by the federal Agency charged to investigate complaints, the percentage of women who experience sexual harassment in their place of work fluctuates between 25 % and 85 %, according to the definitions, and 70 % of them choose to be silent rather than report these incidents in-house. Even far away from Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, the fear lurks all too often.


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