Robert J. O’Hara, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Forbes, in “How Smart Employers Should Respond to #MeToo in 2019,” by Kate Harrison.

Following is an excerpt:

In the past few years, the #MeToo movement has received a lot of attention, spotlighting a variety of issues that are unfortunately not new. The type of misconduct that we’ve all read about and seen on TV news has been around for decades, despite the laws, policies, and procedures that are meant to prohibit harassment and discrimination in the workplace,

Problems in this arena are not new. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the nation’s primary law enforcement agency in this area, published a major report entitled 2016 Select Taskforce on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. The EEOC report concluded that in order to prevent harassment in the workplace, “training must change” and “new and different approaches to training should be explored.” Instead of merely attempting to avoid legal liability, employers were urged to move towards a more ‘holistic’ approach based on principles of general civility and engaging everyone involved to be active participants in helping to prevent harassment in the workplace.

But what do these conclusions by the EEOC mean for your business today? …

Outlook: What Should Employers Expect in 2019

“Employers should expect to see more administrative charges filed, and increased sexual harassment claims made,” notes O’Hara. “This assessment is based not only on the reported number of claims and lawsuits, but also on anecdotal evidence from conversations with employment lawyers and human resources executives. These claims can pose serious threats to the brand and reputation of an employer. Therefore, C-suite members should consider devoting additional resources to creating healthy, respectful and inclusive workplaces, and train supervisors and staff on appropriate workplace conduct.” …

“Employers are likely to see increased litigation regarding gender pay equity,” comments O’Hara. “For example, a class action lawsuit was filed in California last November against Hewlett Packard (HP), which alleged that the massive IT company violated California’s Equal Pay Act. According to the complaint, HP discriminated against female employees by compensating them less than their male counterparts for the same jobs, and also steered women into lower paying jobs based on ingrained gender stereotypes. This case was filed under the revised California Equal Pay Act (amended in 2016), which expanded the comparative standard from the generic ‘equal work’ to the much stricter definition of ‘substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.’”

“All of these issues, and probably more that we haven’t seen yet, will be playing out in our workplaces in 2019,” he concludes. “Companies would be smart to stay ahead of the rising #MeToo wave or risk being swamped by bad behavior, bad performance and bad press.”

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