Dealing with Sexual Harassment - from Hillary Clinton?

It recently came to light that Hillary Clinton did not fire a man on her 2008 staff who had harassed a young lady on her team.  Hillary responded by posting an article on Facebook about what she did and why she did it in response to what happened.  I don't want to discuss the relative merits or demerits of Hillary as a political candidate, but I do think her sharing of her thought processes and how she handled it is worth discussing from an HR/humanistic business management perspective.  So here goes.

First - her essay:

Key points:

1) She believed the alleged victim and took immediate action to make sure the accused no longer had access to this person. She also gave the victim a better job - promoted her.
2) She demoted the person accused but did not fire him. She did ensure that his access to other people and women in particular was limited.  She says she took this route because as far as she knew it was an isolated incident and she believed in giving him a second chance - but in a trust but verify sort of way so that he would not be able to hurt others on her campaign.

While it is very easy to second guess her decisions given that the man in question did go on to harass someone else at another job. I will not be doing that here. Instead I want to highlight what I thought she did right.

Too often, when people complain, they are isolated to protect them while the accused is left free to do whatever they want. This has the impact of socially isolating the victim and limiting their ability to do their jobs. When we do this - we are punishing the person who was brave enough to come forward and report what happened. Hillary not only supported this young woman - she rewarded her for coming forward.

Now, before anyone gets all antsy about how if we reward people for reporting crimes we are going to end up with a lot of false reports, don't worry about that. False reports are pretty easy to spot and don't stand up to basic scrutiny and investigation. Also, the rate of false reporting is quite low. Our problem isn't that we have a bunch of false reports, it's that people aren't reporting crimes of this nature when they happen in the workplace.

The person who was isolated and demoted was the harasser, not the victim. She gave him the benefit of the doubt, but did not leave him free to hurt others. He has monitored so he would have no opportunity to hurt other women on the team. Yes, that seems harsh - but it does give the accused the benefit of the doubt.

We do not know what actions Hillary took to verify the story of the young lady. I assume she did not demote someone without first verifying the story.

What I do know is that unless you take reports seriously and verify them - you won't know. So take reports seriously. Verify. There are not 2 sides to this. Either someone behaved inappropriately or they did not. If they did - they should no longer have access to other members of the team. If you don't fire them, isolate them so that they no longer have the ability to harm others.

And, if you verify that a claim was true - reward the person who came forward and notified you.

Which is worse? Dealing with someone who has behaved inappropriately - or allowing a predator to prey on your staff for years because people are too afraid to come forward? In case you are wondering - it's the latter. Not only in terms of harm done but this impacts workflow and is an enormous legal liability. People with courage to honestly tell you what is going on and that crimes are occurring in your workplace - should be rewarded.  People who are found to have behaved inappropriately need to be monitored closely and if necessary isolated so they no longer have access to their victims and other potential victims.

To learn more about how to stop harassment and bullying in the workplace take my online course: Workplace Bullying for HR Professionals


  1. Hii

    It includes individuals, for the most part ladies, rehashing an announcement that they, as well, have been subjected to lewd behavior or mishandle.

    Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Visit To Posh @ Workplace

    1. Thanks!Good to know Indian laws protect women too!


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