June 27, 2017

Workplace Sexual Harassment: It’s About Time We ‘STOPit’


Employees often learn to ignore casual sexual harassment by necessity. Even especially serious incidents often go unreported or unaddressed. Those who report behavior that makes them uncomfortable have all too often learned that in today’s corporate world, those reports can lead to harassers retaliating by whatever means possible – even to the point of getting the victim fired.

According to the recent “Elephant in the Valley” study, 60 percent of women in the tech sector reported that they have been sexually harassed in the workplace. A broader survey performed by Cosmopolitan in 2015 had one-third of respondents reporting being sexually harassed in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that one in four women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and that 17.1 percent of its total sexual harassment claims on record were filed by men.

Even more disturbing: In these reports and many others, victims often say the harassment came from a supervisor.

Putting a Stop to Sexual Harassment

It’s generally accepted that employers are responsible for the safety of their workers while they are in the workplace, but for some, reason sexual harassment is often overlooked. STOPit is a unique new software solution – previously used to stop bullying in schools – that aims to combat harassment and unsafe working conditions at the office.

“Incident management for employee behavior has been around for a long time, trapped in an old and outdated paradigm,” explains Neil Hooper, senior vice president, global sales and marketing, for STOPit. “The world knows about telephone and legacy hotlines for reporting incidents, and it’s well reported that these are ineffective and tend to be used only after a situation has reached a damaging point.”

STOPit, on the other hand, aims to use the power of mobile to get in front of issues “in a modern and frictionless way,” Hooper says.

Managers begin by registering on the STOPit cloud and generating a unique access key. Employees download the mobile app, which is available in both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store, and enter the access key. This connects management and employees anonymously. Employees can then use STOPit to issue reports and send evidence of misconduct. Management can reply in real time through the app. There is also a web-based version of the app if managers or employees would prefer to use their desktops or laptops rather than mobile devices.

Most incidents of harassment go unreported because employees fear retaliation from the person they reported or from the company in general.

“Just yesterday on the streets of New York, I heard two coworkers arguing about something one of them had said to their manager,” says Hooper. “There can be a real fear of backlash, particularly when there is something significant to report. STOPit has been designed from the beginning to eliminate this fear so management can get the information they need in a safe and more immediate way. Submissions vanish from the sender’s phone so there is no trace of what has been sent.”

According to Hooper, because STOPit was designed to mitigate backlash, incidents are reported more proactively via the platform, thereby reducing the risk of more severe negative effects stemming from misconduct.

The Results are In

So far, STOPit seems to be effective at the organizations where it’s in place – and in more ways than originally planned.

“We have seen some surprising results beyond our expectations,” Hooper says. “We hear from our customers the expected results around addressing employee/employee harassment, management/employee harassment, and workplace hazards. What surprised us is how management uses STOPit to proactively reach out to the employee base to communicate updates and solicit information about issues.”

Hooper also notes that “the average incident resolution time is reduced by 40-50 percent. We were pleasantly surprised by this, and we attribute it to STOPit [allowing management to] immediately request more information and evidence from the anonymous sender.”

Your workers do a lot for you. Without them, your company wouldn’t last very long. You owe employees a work environment free of harassment where they feel safe and secure. STOPit is a new approach to creating such an environment, but whether you choose to use it or another method, what matters most is that you don’t let sexual harassment run rampant in your business. Your employees deserve better.

Read more in Harassment

Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.