HR Management & Compliance

Sexual Harassment Fallout—How to Respond

In the wake of the 2017 Harvey Weinstein scandal around workplace sexual harassment and assault, the nation had a major wake-up call when it comes to these serious issues. In the fallout that followed Weinstein’s downfall, accusations against powerful men in industries from entertainment to business to sports to politics have emerged. And then there’s the #MeToo movement, in which women across the country related their own stories that involved harassment at all levels and in all demographics—far beyond the rich, powerful, and well-known.
It’s important that victims of sexual assault and harassment have their voices heard and that perpetrators are punished accordingly. But David Weisenfeld, writing for XpertHR’s blog, notes that not all of the prominent cases of sexual harassment or assault allegations are as clear-cut as Weinstein’s.

Weisenfeld gives the example of political commentator Ryan Lizza, who was fired from The New York Times after allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior and, subsequently, pulled off the air on CNN, where he also provided political commentary. Weisenfeld writes that “following a six-week investigation, CNN reinstated Lizza. In a statement, the cable network said, ‘Based on the information provided and the findings of the investigation, CNN has found no reason to continue to keep Mr. Lizza off the air’.”
It’s important to keep in mind that sexual assault and harassment, and sexual assault and harassment allegations, are obviously not limited to celebrities and the rich and powerful. HR departments across the country should expect to see a greater number of claims of inappropriate behavior in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Lizza’s case is an example of the complexity of responding appropriately to such accusations.
The challenge for HR professionals will be to come up with ways to not just punish offenders but also to objectively and accurately investigate and evaluate claims so that the rights of both accuser and accused are respected. It’s not an easy task, but it’s a critically important one.