It does not require insightful analysis to conclude that something is broken when it comes to reporting and addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace.
One attempt to fix part of the “brokenness” comes from the Pennsylvania legislature – a bill that would place limits on confidentiality restrictions. (New Jersey is considering something similar and other states, such as California, are assessing possible revisions to reporting and investigative processes).
The proposed law specifically permits two pieces of information to remain confidential – the name of the person making a complaint and the monetary amount of any settlement. But it would ban portions of agreements, including settlements, and prohibit attempts to enforce provisions that do any of the following:
The proposed law is directed at a positive goal: Not allowing a pattern of misconduct to be obscured or overlooked because incidents are often individually handled with settlements that require confidentiality.
But while the reasoning behind the proposed law is clear, the language in Pennsylvania’s bill raises a number of questions. For instance, does the prohibition against waiving rights or remedies mean the company cannot get a valid release of claims? And will the requirement of only being able to expunge information based on a conclusion that the claims are “false” impact the outcome of investigations, especially if results are inconclusive or even mixed?
So that leaves you with the question of what actions might help to avoid a circumstance where patterns of sexual misconduct go unnoticed. At a minimum, consider some of these options:
Finally, continue to be on the lookout – for new thoughts and best practice ideas about training, reporting, investigation, and related topics. Build processes that balance consistency and flexibility. Individuals are different; what’s optimal for one person may be marginal or even negative for another.