Personal Finance

#TimesUp changes workplace relationships well beyond Hollywood

Key Points
  • If the Oscars is any guide, the Time's Up movement is alive and well.
  • Human resource professionals are noting an increase in reports of sexual harassment.
  • Still, many cases go unreported.
Actress Ashley Judd, US-Italian actress Annabella Sciorra and Mexican-Lebanese actress Salma Hayek deliver a speech about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry during the 90th Annual Academy Awards show on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

If the Academy Awards is any guide, the Time's Up movement is alive and well.

In addition to prominent lapel pins and outspoken movement A-listers like Selma Hayek and Jane Fonda, a new era of readiness to tackle harassment and sexism pervaded nearly every aspect of Sunday's Oscars telecast.

And that is having repercussions well beyond Hollywood.

In the aftermath of such alleged egregious behavior by Harvey Weinstein (and many others), human resource professionals are noting an increase in reports of sexual harassment across the board.

More than a third of all HR experts reported at least one sexual harassment allegation in the last year. Of those, 36 percent said it was an increase from the year before, according to new data from the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM.

"It has taken on an energy that is hard to describe," said SHRM's CEO, Johnny Taylor Jr., "Because of Harvey Weinstein as the example, we had to deal with the issue of consent."

Arianna Huffington: Women's March, #MeToo and Time's Up will be historic moments for changes in the workplace

No interoffice relationships are now immune to the effects of #MeToo followed by #TimesUp and, as a result, employees are being a little more careful about how far these connections go.

Office romance is now at a 10-year low, according to a report by CareerBuilder. Only 36 percent of workers said they have dated a co-worker. That's down from 41 percent last year and 40 percent a decade ago.

Yet there still appears to be perceived benefits to having an ally in the office, romantic or otherwise. Overall, people in workplace relationships said they are more satisfied, productive and in better moods than their colleagues, according to a separate report by insuranceQuotes.

However, there is often a power dynamic at play, CareerBuilder found, and that's where trouble can brew.

Thirty percent said they have dated someone who was at a higher level in the organization than they were. And more often, it's men who are in the position with seniority. Thirty-five percent of female co-workers reported dating someone senior to them, compared with 25 percent of their male counterparts.

"Because of the power dynamic, it's technically not consensual," Taylor said.

Still, many cases go unreported. Eleven percent of nonmanagement employees said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past 12 months, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. Of those, 76 percent said they did not report it for fear of retaliation among other reasons.

"According to the EEOC, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you have the legal right to be protected from discrimination in the workplace if your company has 15 or more employees. State laws or employer policies might also offer additional protections."

That's where human resources comes in. Thirty-two percent of HR professionals said they've changed their training, SHRM found, but employers need to be more clear about what behavior is appropriate and what won't be tolerated going forward, Taylor said.

"In the past, we said it was inappropriate, now we've come to sexual harassment," he added. "We have evolved."

More from Personal Finance:
Make the #MeToo moment your chance for a raise
Office romance hits a 10-year low, for good reason
Why employees say workplace sexual harassment goes unreported