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What Can We Learn From Weinstein?

Published October 17, 2017 (last updated December 4, 2020) -

The recent coverage of allegations against Harvey Weinstein should serve as a stark reminder to employers of how damaging any allegation of sexual harassment can be not only to the business, but to the individuals within it.

While the issues currently before Weinstein are personal allegations, the lesson for employers can be seen clearly if the same allegation were to be made against a supervisory staff member. In other words, sexual harassment becomes a very complex challenge to manage if the accused is responsible for other staff members.

As more details of Harvey Weinstein’s conduct become public we can see the impact power has in incidents of sexual harassment. The significant influence Weinstein had over his accusers makes this type of allegations more shocking and were they to take place in a small business they would be hugely confronting for an employer to respond to.

For several reasons, this is a nightmare scenario for any business owner. Allegations of sexual harassment require an employer to take time away from running the business to actually investigate the issues. A proper, and thorough, investigation is crucial in responding to a complaint of sexual harassment, and as such the procedure for an investigation should be well-documented and transparent.

An employer responding to any allegation should adopt the same process for every situation, however the process becomes challenging when the accused is in a position of power. On another level, investigating a middle level manager can be difficult for employers as they are often the more trusted member of the workforce. Hearing the allegations can be difficult on a personal level for the employer, which could arguably be another hurdle for the victim in coming forward.

Sexual harassment, like any form of harassment or bullying, can be hugely damaging to a business and the people involved. Responding to any allegation quickly, and thoroughly, is vital. Importantly, should the allegation escalate to a criminal level employers may be called on to prove they have responded appropriately which is where documentation would be crucial.

While not every case will have the same high profile as Harvey Weinstein’s does, the challenges being played out in the media surrounding this case could easily take place in any small business. This is exactly why employers need to be able to identify sexual harassment and know how to respond.

For more information on responding to sexual harassment in the workplace, view our guide here. For advice on how to minimize the risk of sexual harassment, or on how to respond, contact Employsure on  0800 568 012

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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