Minimum Wage: New Year, New Pay

The tax reform that will impact every U.S. socio-economic class, for better or worse, isn’t the only change in finances many Americans will see. In the new year, minimum-wage workers in 18 states and 19 cities will see a pay increase; approved wages will eventually range from $12 to $15 an hour. This is a major increase from the current national average, an unlivable $7.25 an hour. (Minimum wage referenced here is for non-tipped workers.)minimum wage increase

Minimum wage was established as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 and kept pace with cost of living until about 1968.

“The peak value of the minimum wage in real terms was reached in 1968. To equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968 ($10.69), the current minimum wage’s real value ($7.25) would have to increase by $3.44 (or 47 percent),” says Craig K. Elwell, specialist in macroeconomic policy at the Congressional Research Service in Washington. “Although the nominal value of the minimum wage was increased by $5.65 (from $1.60 to $7.25) between 1968 and 2009, these legislated adjustments did not enable the minimum wage to keep pace with the increase in consumer prices, so the real minimum wage fell.”

Though numerous states have approved an increase in minimum wage, the full impact will happen gradually. For example, Arizona has approved state minimum wage at $12 an hour, but the 2018 minimum wage will be $10.50, a 0.50 cent increase from last year. In 2019, the amount will increase to $11 and in 2020 it will reach $12 an hour. Starting in 2021, minimum wage in Arizona will increase every year based on cost-of-living calculations.

According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, after full implementation of minimum wage increases in 18 states and 19 cities, approximately 13,101,000 workers will be impacted.

This is a great step toward financial independence for millions of minimum-wage workers, notes Carey Nadeau, founder and CEO of Open Data Nation Inc., in Washington, D.C., and Amy K. Glasmeier, professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

“The minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families,” they said. “A typical family of four (two working adults, two children) needs to work nearly two full-time minimum-wage jobs each (a 77-hour work week per working adult) to earn a living wage. A single parent with two children needs to work the equivalent of three and one half full-time jobs (139 hours per work week), more hours than there are in five days, to earn the living wage on a minimum wage income.”

These statistics help paint the bleak landscape of financial struggle minimum-wage workers face, so why not raise wages? Opponents feel that a substantial pay increase will negatively impact job growth.

Those challenging pay raises say that higher wages may mean fewer jobs, particularly those categorized as entry-level. Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, says that a wage hike may make automation more attractive to businesses looking to cut or control costs.

“Automation saves you money because it reduces the need for companies to pay people to serve you, but it also decreases the number of jobs to go around. And, over time, business owners have seen that consumers will trade lower prices for less service, putting more jobs at risk as employment costs escalate beyond productivity levels,” said Saltsman.

The doomsday ideologies of naysayers appear to pale in comparison to recent literature reviews and evidence-based research. A great majority of the literature shows little to no negative correlation between wage increases and business outcomes.

As research continues, especially now that many states are enacting their own minimum-wage policies, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top — businesses, workers or both. In the meantime, HR leaders should keep an eye on state policies and cost-of-living estimates, to ensure equity across the continuum of business.

New STEM Challenge: Ageism

With 2018 just around the corner, HR and talent decision makers remain stymied by the diversity challenge.

As the new year dawns, getting diversity data in better shape is on the minds of many employers, and nowhere is that issue more acute than within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mat (STEM) professional field.

For example, a 2017 survey from Indeed, the job site, found that 43 percent of 1,011 employees polled worry about losing their job due to their age.  Even worse, Indeed found that nearly 18 percent say they worry about it “all the time.” Also, 36 reported experiencing at least one instance during which they weren’t taken seriously by colleagues and managers due to age.

Another recent survey, 2017 STEM Workplace Trends, commissioned by Modis, a provider of information technology and engineering staffing, found that as the STEM workforce matures, age is an ongoing issue for HR to ponder when it comes to diversity talent challenges.

That survey found that a decent percentage — 39 percent — of STEM professionals say that age disparity is the greatest conflict their field struggles to fix.

In all, Modis surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults who work as decision makers in STEM) fields. Not surprisingly, it found that 58 percent of respondents over the age of 55 view age disparity as the greatest challenge to overcome, while those under the age of 25 view gender as the greatest challenge to STEM diversity. Clearly, gender disparity is an issue for younger STEM workers, but ageism is on the minds of older Baby Boomers.

“With more than half of STEM professionals ranking age and gender as the largest diversity struggle in their fields, employers need to be aware of these concerns and aim to make purposeful changes if they want to attract and retain top talent,” said John Marshall III, CEO, Modis, in a company statement.

“In today’s candidate-driven market, it’s inherently important for employers to stand out from their competitors and to shine a light on how they are working to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times recently reported on Facebook’s controversial age-specific job advertising  and the possible age-discrimination consequences for employers that utilize it:

Although Facebook is a relatively new entrant into the recruiting arena, it is rapidly gaining popularity with employers. Earlier this year, the social network launched a section of its site devoted to job ads. Facebook allows advertisers to select their audience, and then Facebook finds the chosen users with the extensive data it collects about its members.

The Times piece also notes  that the practice has begun to attract legal challenges: “On Wed  a class-action complaint alleging age discrimination was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and its members — as well as all Facebook users 40 or older who may have been denied the chance to learn about job openings. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the complaint was based on ads for dozens of companies that they had discovered on Facebook.

From the Times: “Some companies, including Target, State Farm and UPS, defended their targeting as a part of a broader recruitment strategy that reached candidates of all ages. The group of companies making this case included Facebook itself, which ran career ads on its own platform, many aimed at people 25 to 60. “We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory,” said Mr. Goldman of Facebook.”

Predicting the Future Workplace Today

As the dawn of a new year fast approaches, many people are thinking about what changes are ahead of them for 2018. In HR that may look like addressing sexual harassment policies and procedures, moving away from passive hiring or beefing up cybersecurity systems. But what about changes in the more distant future, say 2030 and beyond?future technology

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released an extensive report entitled Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030. The report is based on research from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford, United Kingdom, and a survey of 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and United States.

The results from the report “provide insights into how people think the workplace will evolve and how this will affect their employment prospects and future working lives.”

PwC presents four possible workplace scenarios, categorized as different worlds: yellow, red, green and blue. Each world details what’s important to the employers and employees, the impact of technology and the role of HR.

The yellow world focuses on humanity. Ethics and fairness are highly emphasized and both employers and employees seek out meaningful work. Technology in this world has been utilized to provide easy access to crowdfunding capital, which has helped entrepreneurial companies thrive where corporations once ruled. The issue with technology in this world, however, is one we may start facing soon: automation of jobs.

There doesn’t seem to be space for an actual HR department—the role, as we know it today, is held by company leaders or worker guilds (think medieval trade associations).

In the red world, innovation is king; specialists and niche profit-makers thrive. Specialized skills are highly sought-after, and companies are lean. As new products and businesses are developed in the blink of an eye, regulation lags, making the high-risk red world fast-paced and highly competitive.

HR doesn’t exist—automation, outsourcing and self-organizing teams have replaced it entirely.

Capitalism is at the core of the blue world, but the workforce is scarce. Exceptional talent is highly prized and human effort is pushed to its limits through physical and medical biotechnology, creating a “new breed of super-workers.” Companies obsessively collect personal employee data to predict performance and risk by monitoring the performance, health and well-being of every employee at home and at work.

HR plays a large role in this world and uses advanced analytics to determine performance and retention issues and predict future talent.

Like the yellow world, the green world focuses on humanity first. Green world organizations have a strong social conscious and sense of environmental responsibility. Natural resources are scarce and international regulations grow. Technology is important in this world because it helps protect resources and reduce environmental harm. Unfortunately, just like the yellow world, reliance on technology and automation may make human jobs obsolete.

HR has a major responsibility to not only create an environmentally- and socially-conscious culture, but also protect the company from “sustainability and reputational risk.”

Though these four worlds may feel a little like the Hunger Games, nothing within them is too far-fetched; we’re already seeing some of these changes now with automation and technology.

To prepare for whatever color our workforce becomes, leaders need to act now and plan for dynamic changes. PwC recommends that companies keep abreast of artificial intelligence and automation trends because advances in technology will rapidly and significantly impact everyone.

The most important takeaway, besides being proactive about preparing for the future, is to help quell employees’ fear of automation. Employees are less likely to embrace change if they think their jobs are on the line.

To remain productive and competitive, employers should begin thinking about how they can protect their people. PwC suggests fostering agility, adaptability and skill sharing so that employees feel secure even as the world quickly transforms around them.

Top Flexing Jobs for 2018

Stress will continue to be a concern for many workers in 2018, and that’s a cause for concern for employers struggling with retention issues.

According to a recent survey, 71 percent of employees are so unhappy with their jobs that they are currently looking to change employers. The majority of respondents cite stress as a major factor and believe their jobs are having a significant impact on their mental health. A key solution to this is work flexibility, both for workers and for employers trying to retain employees.

A FlexJobs’ survey of over 5,000 job seekers found that 86 percent of job seekers believe a flexible job would help them be less stressed. Additionally, 45 percent said a job with flexibility would have a huge improvement on their overall quality of life and 52 percent said it would have a positive impact. A “flexible job” is defined as a professional-level job that has a telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time, or freelance component.

Jobs that offer flexible work options are increasing and available in a wide variety of industries. To shine a light on the fastest-growing career fields, FlexJobs analyzed job listings from the past year to identify the top 10 career categories in which the number of flexible job listings has increased significantly — more than 20 percent. Accounting & Finance, Advertising & PR, and e-commerce are among these high growth fields, indicating they are likely to be strong job categories for flexible job seekers in 2018 as well.

Work flexibility has many proven benefits and even more anecdotal benefits–including less stress, better health, higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement, and reduced burnout–so it’s not surprising to hear that job seekers are increasingly interested in finding a flexible job,” says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “The good news is that the opportunities in the flexible job market are continuing to grow and diversify, with the availability of flexible jobs increasing as well as the number of companies offering flexible work arrangements.”

The top 10 flexible career categories that have grown the most since January 1, 2017, plus common job titles within those categories, are:

  1. Editing: copywriter, editor, copy editor
  2. Writing: technical writer, resume writer, writer
  3. Data Entry: bookkeeper, data entry clerk, in-field quantitative market researcher
  4. Advertising & PR: event specialist sales, account executive, account representative
  5. Event Planning: event coordinator, event assistant, event planner
  6. News & Journalism: new editor, news writer, news producer
  7. Internet & e-commerce: social media coordinator, e-commerce manager, digital strategist
  8. Account Management: account manager, account executive, sales representative
  9. Computer & IT: IT project manager, systems engineer, business analyst
  10. Accounting & Finance: staff accountant, bookkeeper, accounting clerk

The career categories with the highest overall number of flexible jobs listings during 2017 are Medical & Health, Administrative, Customer Service, Sales, and Computer & IT.  FlexJobs also recently determined the fastest-growing flexible jobs for 2018 and the Top 50 Companies Hiring for Flexible Jobs.

Taxes Reformed, Now What?

2017 has been a whirlwind year, and, not to be outdone, the Trump administration has ended it with a bang by passing the tax reform bill. Though Trump and the GOP are celebrating, much is still left to be discussed, such as how will the tax reform impact employers?Capital Building

According to Geoff Manville, government relations leader at Mercer, a global HR consulting firm, “As the sweeping Republican tax bill heads to enactment, its healthcare and fringe benefit provisions present a mixed bag to employers. Under the legislation, the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty will be repealed beginning in 2019, potentially taking millions of people out of the individual health care market. The bill will also do away with the employer deduction for qualified transportation fringe benefits and offer a two-year trial program offering tax credits to employers providing certain paid family leave.”

Beginning in the new year, employers can no longer deduct money provided to employees for commuter benefits, including qualified parking and mass transit. Additionally, employers can no longer deduct employees’ pre-tax contributions to these commuter plans.

“The January 1 effective date does not leave much time for employers to decide whether or how to modify their transportation programs given that most employees have already made their elections for this benefit for 2018,” says Tracy Watts, Mercer’s US leader for healthcare reform and senior partner at its Washington D.C. office.

Also suspended starting in 2018 is qualified bicycle commuting expenses and employee tax exclusion for moving expenses, paid or reimbursed by the employer.

Come 2019, individuals will no longer pay a penalty if they’re uninsured. For now, this means employers who sponsor self-funded healthcare plans are required to send 1095s to employees at the end of January 2018 and will be required to report for 2018 in early 2019, says Watts.

Though the reform has many gray areas left to be addressed, there are some things that remain unaffected. These include the following:

  • Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent tax on high-cost employer-provided healthcare plans
  • Employer-provided healthcare coverage exclusion from employee income
  • Adoption- and dependent-care assistance
  • Educational expenses
  • Employer child-care tax credit
  • Employer tax deduction for on-site fitness facilities.

As everyone gets ready to ring in the new year, HR leaders are tasked with reviewing and amending benefits and tax policies impacted by the reform.

Watts suggests: “You will want to consult with your tax adviser and make appropriate payroll changes for all tax status changes effective January 1, 2018… In addition to notifying employees, you will need to make revisions to benefit communication materials, plan documents, online resources and other collateral that reference the impacted benefits.”

Who Can Deliver on AI?

For the last year and a half or so, much buzz has been generated in the HR world about artificial intelligence — how it will revolutionize business, streamline everything, take everyone’s jobs and force us to live in tiny pods, etc., etc. Chances are pretty good that you’ve been contacted by a vendor wishing to demonstrate how its AI solution will solve every last one of your problems.

But how can you determine whether the AI solutions those vendors are peddling are worth your time to investigate — or that the vendors have the capability to deliver what they’re promising?

The HR Policy Association hopes to bring in some much-needed clarity on this via a just-announced initiative that will pre-select vendors that have the AI capabilities necessary for helping the association’s members — 400 of the largest companies in the U.S. — meet their talent-acquisition goals.

HRPA is starting off the initiative with a “Request for Information” for software companies that are using AI to develop HR solutions. The companies will then be evaluated to determine whether they have the resources and expertise necessary for helping large organizations do things such as eliminating unconscious bias from recruiting or identify greater numbers of diverse talent capable of filling skilled positions.

“There is tremendous innovation happening today, yet there remains a lot of opportunity to build technology solutions that are responsive to the needs of large employers,” says Stephanie Lundquist, CHRO of Target Corp., who will lead the HRPA initiative. “We’re looking for companies who can automate HR processes, manage large amounts of HR data, identify skills gaps in the workforce and eliminate unconscious bias that can happen when making HR decisions.”

Lundquist, along with talent acquisition leaders from several other member companies, will review and evaluate companies selected for the process. Companies that make the cut will be included on HRPA’s pre-selected list, with the goal being to make it easier for HR and talent acquisition leaders at member companies to identify which vendors are worth their time.

Given all the AI buzz out there, this initiative seems very timely. Of course, very large organizations are far from the only ones interested in whether AI can help them improve their recruiting processes and make them fairer and more inclusive. And it’ll be interesting to see which vendors make the list.

Microsoft Ends Harassment Arbitration

Microsoft, announced it has eliminated forced arbitration agreements with employees who make sexual harassment claims and was also supporting a proposed federal law that would widely ban such agreements, according to a blog post on the company’s site.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, wrote in the memo that the decision was made on a trip back from Washington to meet with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lindsey Graham, who recently introduced new legislation – S. 2203, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 – which Microsoft supports:

“We concluded that if we were to advocate for legislation ending arbitration requirements for sexual harassment, we should not have a contractual requirement for our own employees that would obligate them to arbitrate sexual harassment claims. And we should act immediately and not wait for a new law to be passed. For this reason, effective immediately, we are waiving the contractual requirement for arbitration of sexual harassment claims in our own arbitration agreements for the limited number of employees who have this requirement.”

(HRE Editor David Shadovitz wrote about this topic last week.)

“The silencing of people’s voices has clearly had an impact in perpetuating sexual harassment,” Smith told The New York Times on Tuesday.

The timing of the announcement follows Bloomberg’ s reporting on previously sealed court filings brought by a former Microsoft intern that stated she was raped by a fellow intern who was later hired at the company.

Arbitration is a private, quasi-legal procedure originally designed to expedite disputes between corporations, according to Ars Technica. “But over time, it has evolved into a system where individuals are compelled for a variety of reasons to agree to arbitration decisions versus seeking a court decision. The net result is that disputes that normally would have been adjudicated via the public court process are often processed via private arbitration, which generally favors corporations over individuals.”

Only a few hundred of Microsoft’s 125,000 workers have been subject to the requirement, Smith noted, and Microsoft will still require those employees to take claims unrelated to harassment and gender discrimination to arbitration.

Given the current climate on sexual harassment today, it will be very interesting to see which companies follow Microsoft’s bold example — and how quickly they do it.

Harassment: Health Hazard?

As if there wasn’t already enough anecdotal evidence of harassment’s ill effects, researchers at Ball State University have found that exposure to such treatment is potentially physically unhealthy for victims.

The Ball State study, Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among US Adults, found that harassment victims suffer from a variety of physical and psychological issues, such as higher rates of stress, loss of sleep, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Harassment victims are more likely to be female, obese, multiracial and those divorced or separated, according to the report, which included an analysis of 17,524 people who participated in the 2010 National Health Interview.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor at Ball State and the study’s lead author, said the results point to the downside of American worker harassment, and how their overall health is negatively affected.

“Harassment or bullying suffered by American employees is severe and extremely costly for employers across the country,” Khubchandani said in a release.  “Harassment harms victims, witnesses and organizations.”

Khubchandani, co-author of the study with James Price, a faculty member at the University of Toledo, added that the humiliation and ridicule of workplace harassment also can cause victims to suffer from low self-esteem, concentration difficulties, anger, lower life satisfaction, reduced productivity, and increased absenteeism. Clearly, harassment is about more than a single outcome and has a direct impact on employee well-being.

Over a 12-month period, the study found:

  • About eight percent of respondents said they were threatened, harassed or bullied in the workplace;
  • Females were more likely to be harassed than males;
  • Individuals reporting higher rates of harassment included hourly workers, state and local government employees, multiple jobholders, night shift employees and those working non-regular schedules’
  • Victims of harassment were more likely to obese and smoke;
  • Female victims reported higher rates of psychosocial distress, smoking and pain disorders such as migraine headaches and neck pain;
  • Male victims were more likely to miss more than two weeks of work and suffer from asthma, ulcers and worsening of general health in the past year. Also, male victims were more likely to have ever been diagnosed with hypertension and angina pectoris.

Despite the recent explosion of media exposure and accompanying outpouring of support for victims of workplace bullying and harassment, the study found that American employers are far from eradicating the problem, Khubchandani explained.

“Workplace harassment could be significantly reduced by American employers if they were willing to accept the prevalence of the problem and acknowledge the high costs for employees and employers,” he said, adding that Interventions to address workplace harassment should be comprehensive.

“Practices and policies should protect employees at risk and there should be protocols to assist employees who are victimized,” he said, concluding that to protect all employees — not just those at risk — there must be employer-wide periodic education and policy reinforcement.


Talent Trends: The Year Ahead

What’s in store for recruiters and talent acquisition leaders in 2018? Well, artificial intelligence and automation, for one thing. But if further talk of that makes your eyes glaze over, fear not — there’s more. For example, Korn Ferry Futurestep’s 2018 Talent Trend Predictions includes a lot of focus on the importance of “home,” as in looking for fresh talent in the home office rather than at competitors’ locations. It also means letting new hires work from their homes rather than making them go through a burdensome relocation process.

The KFF report, based on insights from experts from the search and consulting firm’s network of global offices, finds that — thanks to the scarcity of tech professionals — more companies will be “reskilling” and promoting existing employees into new positions rather than searching for outside candidates. After all, the experts note, current employees are known quantities who already understand the firm’s processes and culture. Meanwhile, more candidates are “opting out of moving for a job,” the KFF experts note, with employers responding by letting new hires remain where they are and work remotely. More companies are also relying on the gig economy to fill certain roles, obviating the need for expensive relocation packages.

Companies are also responding to an emerging need among candidates to “keep it real” — that is, give a realistic preview of what it’s really like to work at the organization. Doing this, the KFF folks say, helps candidates best determine whether they’re a good fit before they get too far along in the process, potentially avoiding early turnover and other unnecessary costs.

Another trend that will stay hot in 2018 will be treating candidates like customers, mindful that word spreads fast about bad experiences. The KFF experts say one strategy is for talent acquisition and marketing departments to work closely together to “monetize the candidate conversation.” This can include giving all candidates a percentage-off coupon for applying and giving them progressive discounts the further they make it through the hiring funnel.

And then, of course, there’s AI and automation (what exactly distinguishes AI from automation is an ongoing source of debate within the talent acquisition community). AI and social technology tools, for example, let recruiters “communicate in a hyper-personal way” with candidates while freeing them from mundane tasks, says KFF. Recruiters can use these tools to, for example, set up a “wireless fence” around key locations so they can identify and segment qualified candidates in specific geographies and target them with mobile messages or advertising. This can be especially helpful when entering a specific market with hiring events, as the systems automatically collect data from users’ mobile phones so they can continue reaching them with advertising after they’ve left the geo-fenced area.

As in previous years, talent acquisition and recruiting will no doubt remain the hottest area for innovation and breakthroughs within the HR space in 2018, and we’ll continue bringing you in-depth coverage of what it means for your organization.

Sexual Harassment: HR Needs Help

Sexual harassment, man touches female coworker inappropriately Picture this: The company you work for is flourishing. The newest addition to the executive team, John, the CFO, has a great vision for the company and is an easygoing, thoughtful guy to boot. Or so you thought. This past week, three of John’s direct reports, all women, have stated that John has made numerous sexually explicit comments to them. How would you proceed?

Option one: You decide not to inform company leadership about the harassment complaints and instead file the grievances away and move on. As a result, the company continues to grow, but so do the complaints against John. Now there are numerous vacancies from women who have left the company. Most of your time is spent searching for replacements and fielding more sexual-harassment complaints.

Option two: You raise these complaints up the chain of command, get John fired and protect the accusers. The executives were not thrilled about losing John, but you promised to personally find a better candidate. Turns out, there was a natural fit for the CFO role already working within the company. She was promoted, and the company thrived. Reports of sexual harassment have significantly decreased, and you can focus your talents on scaling the business upward.

Though both scenarios are over simplified, they paint the picture of today’s HR dilemma.

According to an article published yesterday by the New York Times, HR professionals are stuck in limbo when it comes to addressing sexual harassment. An HR department’s client is the company; however, the department is also responsible for fielding employee complaints.

As we’ve seen from all the latest sexual-harassment scandals, HR tends to side with the company instead of the employee. This decision makes it difficult for women to feel comfortable reporting harassment.

Research indicates that one in three women experience sexual harassment although a staggering 71 percent never report it.

“The lack of trust manifests itself as a self-perpetuating quandary: Women are hesitant to approach human resources departments and those departments cite the absence of complaints as proof of a respectful workplace,” write Noam Scheiber and Julie Creswell, authors of the New York Times piece.

As we know, HR personnel aren’t cold, heartless creatures; many of them want to help employees who bring harassment complaints against powerful colleagues. But they face internal conflict as well.

According to Scheiber and Cresswell: “While many human resources officials would undoubtedly prefer to respond more vigorously to harassment complaints, the fact that they work for the company places significant limits on them – even down to the most basic human interactions. For example, human resources officials must carefully parse their words when speaking with accuser for fear that their remarks could later be introduced as evidence in court.”

For example, they write, something as simple as an HR official saying, “I’m sorry” could be used against the company in a court case. And if an HR official does bring the complaint to the executives or board of directors and they wave it off, the reporting official likely walks away with a target on his or her back.

Scheiber and Creswell write, “When top executives ignore a human resources official’s recommendation about how to end discrimination or harassment, the official typically has only one form of recourse: leave the company. And even that may not save an HR official from a chief executive’s wrath.”

Is it fair to place all the blame on HR? No, because we’re all human. Decisions we make have the capability to negatively impact more than just ourselves. However, HR – the people who are trained in how to handle harassment, discrimination and other negative aspects of the workforce – should have much more room at the executive table to make appropriate decisions without fear of retaliation.

Allowing HR to be proactive about sexual harassment will not only improve company morale, but it will help the bottom line. Businesses stand to lose approximately $22,500 a year in lost productivity for each employee impacted by harassment.

Chelsea R. Willness, lead author of the study A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents and Consequences of Workplace Sexual Harassment, says, “Loss of productivity is one of the most commonly cited organizational costs associated with SH [sexual harassment] …  It is not only the individual’s productivity that suffers. Rather, research evidence shows that the productivity of the entire work group may be negatively affected by SH … It reduces organizational commitment and increases the likelihood of turnover, the cost of which can easily be extreme.”