Google paid a hefty price for the impact sexual harassment had in the workplace. In September of 2020, the company made headlines for paying a $310 million settlement for their mishandling of allegations of sexual harassment by executives. Part of the settlement included overhauling their policies to discourage harassment, from how they hire to how they conduct investigations.
Rocked by lawsuits and bad press, Google sought to set new industry standards and send a message of zero tolerance.
The True Cost of Sexual Harassment
While high-profile cases make headlines, sexual harassment exists in organizations within all industries and of all sizes. The impact is far-reaching and permeates all areas of managing a workforce. Here we examine how sexual harassment affects the workplace.
Fear and embarrassment can cause victims to withdraw from the workplace and disengage from their work and their co-workers. The effect is contagious. Harassment causes a toxic culture that affects all employees, not just those being harassed.
Disengagement leads to employees being tardy and calling out sick more often. In fact, Gallup reports disengaged employees have a 37% higher rate of absenteeism.
Victims and witnesses of sexual harassment are more likely to quit, leading to high employee turnover and an increase in related hiring and training costs.
Google’s mishandling of sexual harassment appears to be affecting their reputation. According to Global RepTrak 100, a survey that measures brand perception and purchasing behavior, Google fell from its #3 spot in 2018, to #15 in 2021. Even if an organization’s dirty laundry isn’t publicized like Google, word still gets around, leading to a loss of business and difficulty in recruiting new employees.
Perhaps the most startling impact sexual harassment has on the workplace is to an organization’s bottom line. Failure to ensure a safe working environment, free from harassment, can result in costly lawsuits. In 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 6,587 claims of sexual harassment, resulting in $65.3 million in settlements—not including legal costs.
Then there are the costs associated with increased absenteeism, employee turnover and the loss of productivity. According to one study, that adds up to an average damage of $22,500 per employee.
What Can You Do?
The best way to prevent workplace harassment is through prevention-based harassment training.
The EEOC provides a checklist for employers when conducting harassment prevention training, which instructs organizations to ensure that…
- Training is repeated and reinforced on a regular basis, provided to all employees at every level, and routinely evaluated and modified as necessary
- Examples tailored to the specific workplace and the specific workforce are included
- Content educates employees about their rights and responsibilities if they experience conduct that is not acceptable in the workplace
- Content describes the process for reporting harassment
- Content addresses the responsibilities of managers including how to deal with, report, and assess risk factors of harassment
A learning management system (LMS) is a convenient and cost-effective way to deploy essential harassment prevention training to your team. When considering an LMS for your organization, make sure the one you select supports state-mandated training requirements without having to build out special courses.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about Balance Point’s e-learning solution and if it’s a right fit for your workplace.