Spurred by #MeToo, a Harassment Task Force Reconvenes


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WASHINGTON — Whereas surveying Chicago resort and on line casino staff about their experiences with sexual harassment on the job, Kasey Nalls had a dialog she stated she would always remember.

A visitor had returned to his room as a housekeeper was cleansing. When the housekeeper went to the toilet to gather used towels, she discovered the visitor bare.

“He was blocking her path to the door, so she needed to barrel and run into him and leap over the mattress simply to get out of the room,” stated Ms. Nalls, a on line casino cocktail server and a member of Unite Right here Native 1, a hospitality staff union in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Ms. Nalls was considered one of a number of authorized consultants, entrepreneurs, nonprofit staff and labor advocates who spoke Monday at a gathering held in Washington by the Equal Employment Alternative Fee. In mild of the #MeToo motion, which has shaken Hollywood, politics and different industries, the fee reconvened a activity drive it had created two years in the past as a part of a broad investigation into office harassment.

Members of the duty drive mentioned cease harassment for a few of the nation’s most susceptible, and fewer seen, staff — together with those that would possibly face harassment not simply from their co-workers, but in addition from clients and visitors.

At the same time as 1000’s of ladies proceed to talk out about their experiences with harassment, Victoria A. Lipnic, the fee’s performing chairwoman, stated it had not acquired a rise in sexual harassment reviews to this point this fiscal 12 months, which started final fall simply as harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein were brought to light. In the 2017 fiscal year, the commission received more than 12,400 reports of sexual harassment.

“What I have heard a lot of is internally, employers have seen an uptick within their own internal processes, of people coming to H.R. complaining, that human resources has an uptick in investigations that they are conducting,” Ms. Lipnic said.

Though reports to the commission have not increased, there have been signs of increased awareness of the agency’s work. According to a commissioner, Chai Feldblum, the rate of online traffic on the agency’s website has tripled in the past few months. For Ms. Lipnic and Ms. Feldblum, who both led the original task force, the past nine months have provided the “cultural awakening” necessary for the commission to insert itself as a crucial player in the conversation happening in the news media and on social media.

In 2016, the commission, which is charged with enforcing federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination, released a report that found that “much of the training done over the last 30 years has not worked as a prevention tool — it’s been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability.”

Since the report’s release, the commission has been busy providing employers new training programs that focus on respect and inclusivity rather than legal definitions.

But many employers have turned to more creative solutions for mitigating sexual harassment faced by their workers.

The union audit that Ms. Nalls helped conduct concluded in 2016 that among nearly 500 female hotel and casino workers surveyed, 58 percent of hotel employees reported being sexually harassed by a guest as did 77 percent of casino workers — results that would serve as the basis for a “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance in Chicago that involved, among other things, issuing panic buttons to housekeepers.

Erin Wade, a former labor lawyer who runs the restaurant Homeroom in Oakland, Calif., shared with the task force a solution that her business had created to deal with harassment. Three years ago, after a flurry of emails from employees reporting a customer’s poor behavior, the staff devised a color-coded system: Servers can label guests “yellow,” “orange” or “red” depending on the level of harassment, then discreetly notify a manager, who will take over the table.

“It’s empowering,” Ms. Wade told the panel. “There’s no justification needed to report a color. You also don’t have to relive what could have been a scarring experience for you, and you’re not feeling like you haven’t been taken seriously.”

And when there is a red on the floor and the customer is kicked out, Ms. Wade said, the customer usually responds sheepishly.

“We have not had aggressive situations where people are angry,” she continued. “They’re just not used to being called out.”

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