People, Person, Blonde, Female, Woman

Sexual Harassment as a Dinner Table Topic

By Evan McDonnell

As a father of two politically astute teenage daughters, the entire “#MeToo” movement has been a frequent dinner table conversation. My wife and I got hit with questions like “What is sexual harassment?”, “How does it actually happen in the workplace?”, and “Have you ever witnessed it?

Hearing so many stories rise to the surface in such a short time made a big impact on my daughters. The oldest is just about to start working on someone’s payroll and entering the employee / employer relationship for the first time. I commend all those who’ve come forward to share their experiences and make sure our culture knows it is not okay. I’m thankful to each of them for providing great teachable moments for me.

New topics over dinner emerged as each chapter of the movement unfolded. In December of 2017, the Washington Post published an opinion piece from Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, titled “What Microsoft Learned from Our #MeToo Moment.” He recounts how Microsoft made the decision to stop requiring arbitration for employment disputes, noting that practice led to less public awareness of sexual harassment. The article unearthed that 60 million Americans are not able to bring sexual harassment claims to court because they have employment contracts requiring those claims be submitted to private arbitration. Sexual harassment has persisted in part because victims are effectively silenced by these agreements.

New rounds of questions over dinner ensued. “What’s arbitration?”, “Why would a company try to prevent employees from suing over this kind of behavior?”, and so on. More teachable moments for which I was grateful.

Uber provided more fuel for dinner time discussion when it announced it would end mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims followed quickly by Lyft doing the same. We had decided to stop using Uber and only use Lyft when the sexual harassment allegations at Uber came to light. This facilitated great conversations about how consumer choice can shape companies.

Then the zinger question. “Does Appian require arbitration?” I didn’t know the answer as that was in a document I signed over seven years earlier. After a few minutes of digging in the file cabinet, I was able to confirm that my agreement had no arbitration clause. But what about the hundreds of employees who joined after me? That led me down the hall to speak with our HR and Legal teams. I learned that the agreement I signed is essentially the same one that new employees sign and it still does not contain an arbitration clause.

I was pleased, but not surprised. As I’ve shared before, Appian’s culture makes it possible for employees to do great things. We are definitely “people first.” As far as the #MeToo movement, we were ahead of the trend. Happy to welcome Microsoft, Uber, and Lyft to the bandwagon.

Sexual Harassment as a Dinner Table Topic was originally published in AppianLIFE on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Published on Jun 4, 2018

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