Platforms and Governments Take Steps Toward Sexual Harassment Protections for Freelancers

Platforms and Governments Take Steps Toward Sexual Harassment Protections for Freelancers

The freelance hiring and management platforms Fiverr and AND CO have teamed up to create a new standardized work contract for freelancers that they are calling the first of its kind to include built-in protections against sexual harassment, Ephrat Livni reported at Quartz on Wednesday:

The new contract explicitly states that harassment by clients or staff isn’t tolerated, which may seem obvious but isn’t a fundamental aspect of most freelance arrangements. The agreement also gives freelancers the right to terminate an arrangement if offending behavior continues after the client has been informed of it. A contractor who quits on these grounds must then be paid in full for the project or the month—depending on the terms of their arrangement with the client—and must receive that pay within 30 days.

Sounds decent, right? Well, it is. But it’s also not much, as the companies also admit. “We recognize this is a small step in a much longer journey, but it’s an important one,” they state.

After all, a big problem with harassment in the workplace is that it’s awkward to report in the first place, and all the more so when the perpetrator of the abuse is responsible for the paychecks. Despite the new clauses, contractors who are harassed by the clients who hired them aren’t very likely to feel comfortable demanding that abuses stop—not if they want to work for that client again. And few freelancers who are in an office on a contract basis will find it easy to complain about abusive staff with permanent positions.

These caveats highlight one of the fundamental perils of a labor market in which more workers are self-employed and fewer enjoy the protections that come with a formal employment relationship with a single organization. The #MeToo movement has sparked a long-overdue conversation about sexual harassment and misconduct in US workplaces, which has sent organizations and governments scrambling to find better ways to protect workers against these crimes. Most of these laws and policies, however, focus on employees, with independent contractors getting less robust protection, if indeed they have any at all.

Writing these protections into contracts is one way to help address the abuse of freelancers; another is to enshrine them explicitly in the law.

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Nike’s Culture Upheaval Demonstrates the Power of Employee-Led D&I

Nike’s Culture Upheaval Demonstrates the Power of Employee-Led D&I

Since March, Nike has been conducting a massive overhaul of its company culture, executive leadership, and HR practices after a covert survey of female employees revealed widespread patterns of sexual harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environments for women. As the New York Times recently reported in a major story reviewing the upheaval, this toxic culture was driving talented women out the door. In recent months, several high-level male executives at Nike have left the company amid the scandal.

Some of these executives stand accused of engaging in sexist practices themselves; others do not, but have been faulted for failing to address employees’ concerns, creating the perception of an executive “boys’ club” in which male managers were protected from consequences for their misbehavior. Another key theme in the Times‘ report is the Nike women’s dissatisfaction with the response they received from HR.

Nike CEO Mark Parker has moved quickly to bring the situation under control and assure employees that the company is taking its culture problems seriously. At an all-company meeting last Thursday, Parker admitted that he and other executives had missed signs of the problems that have come to light recently, apologized to the affected employees, and promised a thorough investigation into their complaints, along with changes to the company’s training and compensation practices to make them more inclusive, particularly toward women.

While Parker and his executive team will be responsible for making these needed changes to Nike’s culture and practices, none of these changes would be possible without the women employees who took the initiative to bring the company’s problems to light. One important takeaway from this story, therefore, is the power and promise of employee-led D&I initiatives.

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Corporate America Is Moving in the Wrong Direction on Sexual Harassment Transparency

Corporate America Is Moving in the Wrong Direction on Sexual Harassment Transparency

Since last year, the #MeToo movement has blown a hole in the shroud of secrecy that has long surrounded the scourge of sexual harassment at companies of all forms, sizes, and industries, both in the US and around the world. Yet just as the public consciousness of this issue is growing, more sexual harassment complaints are being handled behind closed doors than in the past. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and equivalent state agencies received 41 percent fewer complaints in 2017 than they did in 1997, Bloomberg’s Jeff Green points out—not because fewer employees are getting harassed, but rather because companies have become much more likely to handle these matters internally:

Ninety-five percent of companies now have an in-house complaint process, the Society for Human Resource Management said in a January report. Eighty-two percent have an investigation protocol in place. …

At the company level, HR departments don’t always know the extent of their own problems. The same SHRM report found a wide disconnect between what HR sees and what employees are saying. Three out of four non-manager employees who experienced harassment said they did not report it. At the same time, 57 percent of human resource professionals said that unreported sexual harassment occurs “to a small extent.”

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Venture Capital Firms Band Together to Take On Sexual Harassment

Venture Capital Firms Band Together to Take On Sexual Harassment

Around 40 venture capital firms have joined a new project called MovingForward, which “gathers VC commitments to foster a diverse, inclusive, and harassment-free workplace.” Participating venture firms are sharing their own policies against sexual harassment and discrimination, contact points for entrepreneurs to ask questions and report problems, and statements on their efforts to combat harassment and promote diversity and inclusion.

Although not all the participating firms are making both their internal and external policies public, Recode’s Theodore Schleifer reports, the creators of the initiative say they have encouraged several VCs that did not have anti-harassment policies to create them:

Most venture capital funds do not have human resources departments, and even if they have an internal policy that defines and punishes harassment, it generally has only applied internally to their firm — not to the entrepreneurs that they interview and fund. …

“This effort has created a movement within the VC partnerships to do something,” [co-creator Cheryl] Yeoh said, telling Recode that she believed she has set off a “scramble” within venture capital firms to craft policies or identify a contact. She claimed that around half of the firms did not have policies applying to entrepreneurs or publicly identified points of contact before she pitched them.

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Mindful of #MeToo Backlash, LeanIn Urges Male Leaders to Mentor Women

Mindful of #MeToo Backlash, LeanIn Urges Male Leaders to Mentor Women

As the #MeToo movement has galvanized public attention around the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, an unintended side effect of this scrutiny has been increased anxiety among men of “accidentally” harassing a female colleague—i.e., having an innocent remark or gesture misinterpreted as sexual and being accused of an offense he had not intended. In some cases, this is leading male corporate leaders to shy away from spending any time alone with the female colleagues or subordinates who work for them. The Washington Post took a look at this phenomenon last month:

In Silicon Valley, the chief executive of a midsize company asked his human resources manager what he should do about the undercurrent of tension around issues of sexual misconduct. Stop having dinners with female employees, he was advised. In fact, stop having dinners with any employees. Lunches are okay, dinners no way, HR told him. Another investor said his colleagues have canceled their one-on-one meetings with female entrepreneurs.

LeanIn and SurveyMonkey recently put some hard numbers behind these anecdotes, finding in a survey that “almost half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together,” and that 30 percent are uncomfortable working alone with a woman: more than twice as many as said so before the recent series of high-profile sexual harassment stories were reported in the media. Also, the number of male managers who are reluctant to mentor women more than tripled from 5 to 16 percent since these stories came to light.

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How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Hollywood Women to Sexual Harassers: ‘Time’s Up’

Hollywood Women to Sexual Harassers: ‘Time’s Up’

On January 1, a group of over 300 women in the US entertainment business, including prominent actors like America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, and Reese Witherspoon, announced the launch of a massive, nationwide initiative to address sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault in their own workplace as well as other industries. Their effort, entitled Time’s Up, is a leaderless, volunteer-powered campaign to put pressure on employers to take action against harassment, connect victims to legal resources, and protect them from retaliation for speaking out about their experiences of harassment and abuse. As the New York Times’s Cara Buckley reported when the initiative was launched, Time’s Up is starting out with four key components:

  • A legal defense fund, backed by $13 million in donations, to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
  • Legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
  • A drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies that has already begun making headway.
  • And a request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes speak out and raise awareness by wearing black.

Central to the endeavor is a focus not only on the rarefied world of these Hollywood stars, but also—especially—on women who lack their power, privilege, and wealth, such as domestic and agricultural workers, who suffer extensively from sexual harassment and violence in the workplace but often lack the resources to fight back. The Time’s Up legal defense fund, which has by now attracted over $16 million and counting in crowdfunded donations, will be housed at and administrated by the National Women’s Law Center and led by Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, and Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued before the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

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