The business of protecting companies from sexual harassment scandals is booming.
Calls to reputation management firm Temin and Company quadrupled in 2018, according to president and CEO Davia Temin.
"Sexual harassment has not been one of our biggest areas of inquiry, up until now," Temin tells CNBC Make It. But with the rise of the #MeToo movement, companies are finding themselves unprepared and facing huge legal liabilities. Temin's business helps companies — including more than 15 in the Fortune 500 — find and address internal problems, before they become public.
When a company hires Temin and Company, the firm first conducts an in-depth study into the company's leadership and corporate culture. Temin zeroes in on how persistent a culture of sexual harassment is at an organization and what the company is doing wrong, then makes recommendations at the governance level, including, in some cases, firing senior people. Many of Temin's clients are in highly-regulated industries, like pharmaceuticals and finance.
Workplace sexual harassment claims jumped more than 12 percent in fiscal year 2018, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC recovered $70 million from companies for victims of sexual harassment in 2018, up from $47.5 million the year before.
"From the beginning of the #MeToo movement to now, I have definitely seen corporate employers and non-profit organizations taking this issue so much more seriously," Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the EEOC tells CNBC Make It.
The EEOC offers harassment prevention training, and its trainers are booked up six or seven months out, according to Lipnic. Its staff outline best practices for preventing harassment and tailor recommendations to suit different workplace cultures. Though the organization used to receive case-by-case requests for help, often from employers looking to "check the box" following an expensive settlement, this type of training aimed at really changing corporate culture is new, says Lipnic, who now gets more than 100 emails every day from companies asking for help.
"It is undeniable that people woke up," said Lipnic. "I certainly hope, as the head of the EEOC, that people stay awake."
Still, she says, the real impact of the actions firms are taking won't be clear for five to 10 years. "If this is all a 'one -and-done' thing, then I am not sure how much improvement we will have made."