The nation’s #MeToo movement has spurred enormous positive change, including employers revisiting their anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures. And with the help of today’s technology, employers can now adopt a phone app that allows employees to report workplace harassment from the convenience and privacy of their phone. While there are many of these new reporting apps to choose from, they all share the common theme of providing employees a safe space to disclose – anonymously if they choose – positive or negative situations in the workplace, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Employers may be quick to adopt this new technology. At first glance, we may perceive these apps as an innovative way to reduce the risk of workplace harassment going unreported. But dispensing a new app into the workplace to encourage anonymous harassment reporting is simply not enough. Employers must first empower the workforce with confidence to report harassment and combat workplace behavior that encourages unwanted or illegal behavior. Employers must then follow up on all harassment complaints, including all anonymous complaints, by conducting a thorough investigation and taking necessary action.
Merely encouraging anonymous reports through these apps, without more, will only exacerbate the challenges of investigating anonymous complaints, such as verifying the allegations, obtaining supporting evidence, or uncovering corroborating testimony. And failing to investigate complaints of harassment will put employers in a worse position than not providing an app to report harassment. If employers decide to utilize these new apps for reporting harassment, they should be adopted in conjunction with both a well-constructed anti-harassment policy implemented through employee training and a safe workplace culture free of harassing behavior.