Friday 8 March 2019 is International Women’s Day. Over the years the day has increased in significance as reports of harassment against women and workplace inequality continue to headline the news. Over the past 12 months, VinciWorks has collected accounts of people who have experienced or been witness to harassment or workplace inequality. The stories have been shared via our anti-harassment training with the full consent of the author, with their real name replaced to protect them.
It started in the interview. He asked if I was married, then if I had a boyfriend, then he just kind of smiled. The day after I started, he came over to me and sat on my desk, asked me how things were going, and that if I needed anything I could always ask. He said, ‘I’ve got my eye on you.’
Then the text messages started. ‘How was your day? What are you doing at the weekend?’ At 10pm, 11pm, after midnight even. One night I just ignored him and came in early to avoid seeing him in the carpark. But he was there waiting for me at my desk. Eventually I asked someone why he was doing this. She just shrugged and warned me that if I wanted to stay, I better not ignore him.
It really wore me down, the constant messages. I became afraid of my phone in case he would send something, afraid to look and see who it was. I did talk to HR, but they told me to ignore it. I specifically remember they said to me: ‘so you want every man who winks at a women to be afraid of the lawyers?’ As if his behaviour is my fault. Like I’m the one who has to respect his right to treat me like less than a human. And it’s not like this is happening on the street from a random stranger, this is someone who can decide on my career advancement, my salary, who can fire me.
In a recent article published by QBE insurance group on the risks that law firms should look out for in 2019, our Director for Legal Services Pip Johnson shared her insights together with other compliance experts.
Pip flagged the Fifth Money Laundering Directive, which must be implemented into national regulations by this time next year. While the Fifth Directive is not as extensive as the Fourth Directive that came into force in 2017, there are still some changes to take on by the beginning of 2020. These changes include the regulation of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, with some firms already having been asked to accept cryptocurrency payments. The Fifth Directive will also see enhanced due diligence requirements. Of course, Pip also discussed the effect Brexit could have on UK lawyers, with the UK due to implement its own Sanctions regime.
Other key takeaways from the interview:
EU Council Directive 2018/822, (DAC 6), that came into force last June requiring intermediaries involved in cross border tax transactions to retain details of potentially tax advantageous matters
An expected increase of comlaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for GDPR breaches
The upcoming reformed SRA Handbook and the new Accounts Rules
How Brexit could effect the UK’s laws and regulations and how they apply to UK law firms
We are now all-too familiar with stories of employees being sexually harassed or bullied at work and keeping quiet for several years in order to keep their job, or for fear of being shamed. Worryingly, the issue of being “silenced” is not unique to harassment alone. A study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that around 11% of women have been fired, made redundant or treated so badly they were left with no choice but to leave as a result of being pregnant or giving birth. Over 20% said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working.
In her second installment in a series on whistleblowing, Director of U.S. Compliance Sandra Erez explores the extent to which whistleblowing methods have changed over the years. She also shares insights on how whistleblowing portals can be utilised to allow staff to easily and anonymously report suspicious or inappropriate behaviour.
Sandra takes a deep dive into the history books, starting with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis whereby the White House installed its very first hotline to “help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation”. The article reminds us of how whistleblowing methods have developed over time, including whistleblowing being included in legislation in the passing of the 2008 Dodd-Frank Act, further motivating employees to blow the whistle on suspected fraud and misconduct.
The Lawyer recently published an article highlighting some of the biggest City law firms’ lack of effort in combatting workplace harassment and bullying. In the article, these large firms are criticised for only doing the minimum, if that, to ensure workplace harassment does not go unnoticed and unidentified. When faced by The Lawyer with the question of how many people have been dismissed for inappropriate behaviour in the past year, many firms avoided answering the question.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, have men finally begun to grasp how widespread the issue of sexual harassment against women is?
The answer seems to be no, according to a new study which reflects how much men in the U.S.— and 12 European countries, including Britain — underestimate levels of harassment against women. While both sexes underestimate sexual harassment, but this tendency is more pronounced among men. Men in the US were asked to estimate the levels of sexual harassment experienced by women since the age of 15 as part of an Ipsos Mori survey on the “Perils of Perception”. Their estimates were at an average of 44 percent.
The headline is sadly too familiar. We’re told how many more victims have now come forward since the first allegation of sexual misconduct against the previously well-respected celebrity. Victims who knew the perpetrator in a professional capacity with accounts that stretch back to when they, now in the twilight of their career, were in their youth. The reader’s suspicions are confirmed that the abuse was either left unnoticed, ignored, or sadly, but most likely, swept under the carpet for decades. Of course, the unfortunate reality is that for every celebrity in the headlines there are many more non-celebrities whose acts are equally appalling but not newsworthy.
In acknowledgment of this, on May 10th, 2018 the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act was passed with the aim of protecting all employees in New York from sexual harassment in the workplace. The Act places a requirement on New York employers to review their policies and procedures relating to sexual harassment and provide annual anti-sexual harassment training to their staff.
VinciWorks realized that sexual harassment was an issue that was vital to address from a compliance perspective when the #MeToo movement revealed the shocking prevalence of abuse within society. We began by conducting some research into why workplace sexual harassment was still rifeand worryingly found that 50% of respondents didn’t think their organization would deal with a report of sexual harassment very seriously. It confirmed what we already suspected – harassment is a topic that needs to look at the end point first and ask the toughest question: is there a culture of sexual harassment within this organization?
On Wednesday, 21 November, at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London, VinciWorks attended the prestigious Learning Technologies Awards 2018 as finalists in the “Best use of mobile learning” category for our #MeToo-inspired sexual harassment course, MyStory. The annual awards celebrate excellence in learning technology and this year, up against giants such as L’Oreal, Air France and winners John Lewis, we were honoured to have MyStory nominated.
In the category with the most nominees of the evening, John Lewis claimed the Gold award for their series of bite-size, self-led web app resources were made accessible via the device.
About VinciWorks’ sexual harassment training
MyStory: Harassment and Bullying at Work directly applies the powerful lessons of the recent global outcry against sexual harassment in the workplace through innovative storytelling and a mobile-first design. Soon to be available to download on app stores for free, the course changes the paradigm of previously ineffective, legalistic harassment training by bringing real stories of harassment to life. The course connects users to a global movement and provides everyone with a safe platform to raise their voice against bullying and harassment at work.
In a survey carried out by VinciWorks, a staggering 50% of respondents said they weren’t confident their organisation would deal with a report of sexual harassment very seriously. And worse, 10% of respondents said that they had been shown sexually explicit or inappropriate content at work. The results of this survey and others evidence that in an environment where harassment is tolerated and complaints ignored, abuse will thrive. Sadly, a study by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission critically shows that 75% of victims don’t report abuse because they fear retaliation, whilst 75% of victims who did report abuse experienced retaliation.
VinciWorks has released a new mobile-first e-learning course on harassment and bullying at work. MyStory: Harassment and Bullying at Work has directly applied the lessons of the #MeToo movement and the wealth of research into why traditional sexual harassment training doesn’t work to create a brand new kind of anti-harassment experience.
#MeToo launched a movement against sexual harassment through the simplest but bravest act of people sharing their stories. Women and men who had been targeted by predators, subjected to appalling behaviors and victimized by their harassers said no more, enough is enough. They gave abusers nowhere to hide, and employers no room to shield the perpetrators.