According to Deborah McPhee, a licensed Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Education Sponsor, 81% of women suffer sexual harassment, while men are under 50%. In many cases, most of the sexual harassment case goes unreported. Cases like this happen in any environment, like your workplace or at home. In another episode of the Exit Rich podcast, our special guest discusses sexual harassment law and how it can crush small businesses. She also provides insights on the difference between online training and hiring coaches like Deb in conducting sexual harassment training in your organization. Learn to protect everyone around you from harassment, and let’s get onto this episode today.
For more information, you can visit her website at https://deborahmcphee.com/ or call 312-533-1994
Listen to the podcast here
Is The Sexual Harassment Law Crushing Small Businesses? With Deborah McPhee
I’m so excited. We are going to have another special guest for you. This is a subject that we have not talked about before. I’m delighted to have my special guest on, Deborah McPhee. We are going to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. This is not a pleasant subject, but something all of you must know because this can make or break your business. Plus, we want to make sure that we are treating our employees respectfully, we are holding our employees in the highest regard, and we are running a good business. That’s what we all want. That’s what we all should want. That’s what we all should strive for.
Who is Deborah McPhee? Great question. I met her at a mastermind that we went to in Pittsburgh. She is a peer-reviewed author, speaker, business consultant, and coach. She holds a BA in Healthcare Sales and Marketing Management and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Corporate Education from DePaul University in Chicago. Chicago is my favorite place in the summertime.
As a licensed Illinois domestic violence and sexual assault awareness educational sponsor, she specializes in education violence and abuse, awareness, and prevention through speaking events, workshops, and private coaching appointments. Deborah founded Illinois’ Sexual Harassment Prevention Training to prevent incidents of sexual misconduct in the workplace and help companies stay compliant. We all must be compliant with the new law in accordance with the state laws and regulations, federal standards, and company policies. Welcome to the show, Deborah. It’s my pleasure to have you.
It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Before we dig into what companies are doing right and what they are doing wrong and how they should be compliant going forward because new laws will come into effect, let’s dig a little bit into Deborah. Who is Deborah? What were you like as a little girl? Tell us a story about yourself, your life, and how you ended up getting into this business.
I grew up in Chicago. How did I end up doing this? Funny story. I was married to the first guy 18 to 32 years old. I got married right out of high school. He’s a good guy, but it just didn’t work out. When I was 40, I had a very brief marriage to the second guy, and he was a psychopath. That’s what the doctors called him. Not me. This guy crossed the line with my thirteen-year-old daughter. When I did everything that my mothers did, kick him out, order protection, and file for divorce, he hired two people to kill me. What we know now that we didn’t know several years ago is that that’s when they come back to kill you.
When you won’t listen to them, there’s nothing left to do. Three women a day in the United States die from intimate partner violence. Three women a day in the United States die from somebody they love. They get killed. I was kidnapped. I was with 3 men for 6 hours, whatever you are thinking. It was worse. I got away. I escaped. I stole their car and drove myself to the police station. I get to the police station. Here are the keys to the car I stole.
How did you get away from them and manage to steal their car?
We were in a hotel room and they put the keys on the dresser. I spotted the keys on the dresser. I grabbed the keys and ran. I made a run for it. I got in their car, stole their car, and drove myself to the police. The police didn’t believe me. They thought I made the whole thing up. That’s pretty common with the police. They don’t believe the abuser or they think, “If you want us to go arrest your husband, we will go get him on Monday.” How do I keep my kids alive over the weekend? We ultimately put him in jail.
The police did not believe you. What did you do next?
This was all on a Friday afternoon. They said, “If you want us to pick them up on Monday, we will.” I took my kids and we went into hiding for the weekend. We went somewhere far away and stayed for the weekend, and then that Monday, my mother, my brother, and I went back to the police station and filled out. We started the paperwork to have him arrested.
They believed you then?
They arrested the two guys plus your husband.
No. They never got the two guys. Only my husband is the one they found. The other two were never found. He went into the West side of Chicago and hired two drug dealers. We didn’t even know their names. My husband didn’t understand how much danger we were both in if he thought he was safe with these guys in the car. I had four debit cards, so they took $4,000, $1,000 out of each account. That was my limit. They were in it for the money.
Their job was to kill you. Luckily, you escaped. Did they hurt you?
Yes. I was physically and sexually assaulted for six hours. It was bad. It’s a lot of mental abuse. The day after the kidnapping, I had to take a trauma test at the hospital and I tested out at the highest category that a human could be traumatized. I did the trauma therapy. I did a lot of therapy. I worked very hard to get better. I was not going to be one of those women that had a bad day and I’m going to be a victim for the rest of my life.
Amen to that because many of us have suffered from lots of different things and trauma in our childhoods. The key is to stand up and say, “You are not going to be a victim.” You are a survivor. Thank God you are here.
Since then, I have spent the last several years lecturing and teaching about women’s safety. I have devoted my life to women’s safety. I’m a certified national safety trainer. My area of expertise is domestic violence, sexual assault, violence at work, and sexual harassment.
What did you do before?
I spent most of my adult career as a dental pharmaceutical rep. That was a dangerous job when you think of it because you are in the car, you got the suitcase, and you are in and out of hospitals. Anybody could follow you. It wasn’t like I was in a safe building working all day. I was out by myself making field calls to doctor’s offices.
It’s like real estate agents. It can be a very deadly place because you are going into people’s homes that you don’t know.
Sometimes they are empty.
Also, there are some strangers. That explains how you transition into it. I give you credit for changing your life around and making it your life mission. Everybody has to have a why in their life and why do they do what they do. What type of training is needed? How did you train for this?
When the mandate came, this new mandate is only a few years old. When they rolled it out, I called Springfield, which is the capital. There are seven states. Let me read the states. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New York, Washington, and Washington, DC all mandate sexual harassment prevention training for all employees.
Other states are probably beyond it.
It’s going to roll out nationwide.
Can you work with owners in every state?
I have customers across the country, including Illinois, because I can give the CE credits, this Continuing Education credits to anybody who has a license. I can do that in Illinois, but I have got customers all over the place. If you are out of state and need a CE, we work with somebody else and get it for you.
How have you trained for this? What does it need?
When this rolled out, I was a domestic violence advocate. I’m a sexual assault confidential advisor on top of having a Master’s degree in Adult Education. When this rolled out, I called the capitol and I said, “I’m qualified to do this. What do I have to do?” They said, “Everybody needs this and nobody is qualified to teach it because you have to have a domestic violence background and a sexual assault background.” It was coincidentally that I already had that. A lot of people now are going through their training to do what I do, but I already had it. My license is number 80 in the state. There are not a lot of us that are qualified to do what I do in the state.
Who do you represent? Do you represent employers or employees?
It’s funny you ask that because I paid $10,000 to have a booth at a big show and nobody would talk to me. All the men looked and they ran away. Everybody thinks I’m going to help their staff report them and that’s the furthest from the truth. The business owner is my client. My job is to protect the business owner and prevent the staff from making any reports, and I do that with the coaching program with the staff.
When I come into an office, I say, “Boss here has hired me like you. I’m part of the team just like you.” When things go wrong, they are not going to tell the boss anything. They are going to tell me everything. I get phone calls from employees all the time and they are like, “This happened. That happened,” and we work through it, but they are not going to tell the business owners. You guys are the bosses.
You represent the business owner.
That is my client. That’s who I’m to protect.
You said you spent $10,000 at a booth and everybody looked at you like a plague. How do you break that barrier to get through these business owners? I’m glad you are on my show because we have all business owners. It’s not picking aside because you want the employees to be taken care of. Nobody wants to see employees get sexually harassed and abused, but how do you break that barrier to get business owners to say, “Listen up. This is important.”
The booth wasn’t a good idea because I can’t shout all this as people walk by.
You can. Maybe you should start with a little karate class.
I do a lot of regional and small speaking with business owners. I work with a lot of associations and sometimes all the business owners are in the same association. When I go and I’m the representative for the association, and then we handle everybody that’s part of that.
How prevalent is sexual harassment?
Eighty-one percent of women have claimed to have suffered sexual harassment in their professional careers. That’s not some women. That’s most women.
It’s happened to me. I have mostly been entrepreneurial in my own companies, but it did happen to me. Eighty-one percent. I knew it was high. I thought it was like around 60%, 65%, or 70%. What about men?
It’s under 50%. It might be in the high 30% for men. Any human can harass another human. Do you remember the bully on the playground in third grade? That’s the harasser. It’s that person growing up. It’s not about sex. It’s about power. For some reason, the harasser has to step on your head to make themself more important.
It’s about power and control. The #MeToo Movement is huge.
This program is stemming from the #MeToo thing a couple of years ago. That’s how this was all developed.
It’s a high number though. Eighty-one percent of women report sexual harassment in the workplace.
They don’t report. A lot of it goes unreported.
I imagine. They are trying to keep their job. How many are reported?
I don’t know the percent number, but it’s a lot and not lower. I can tell you that sexual harassment claims, at least in the state of Illinois, have spiked since this program rolled out. It’s great that everybody gets a reminder of how to behave at work, but it’s not good for the business owner with all the spikes.
We talked about you representing employees. Who are some of your clients?
I have my smallest client is 1 doctor with 2 assistants. My largest client is an association with a couple of thousand. Most of the people I work with do not have an HR team. I can take this part of the business from the business owner. If they do have an HR team, I work with the team to help the HR team.
In their HR team or you walk with their HR team. Let’s get to a couple of these questions before I go on with my questions. I’m not going to be selfish here. In your experience, what are some successful initiatives that have been implemented by businesses to combat sexual harassment?
A lot of businesses are putting a coach on the team like I am. A liaison on the team, between you, your employees, and the state.
Liaison be like a COO or general manager. Does this specifically need to be like a sexual harassment coach or HR coach?
If they have the qualifications. A lot of people who suffer from domestic violence at home are having a hard time at work, and so they are vulnerable. When the harassment comes, they are going to pick on those people. You can designate somebody within your team to handle this, but if they are not experienced, if they are not a sexual assault advisor, if they are not a domestic violence, or advocate, they may not have all the answers.Many people suffering from domestic violence at home have a hard time at work. They're vulnerable. Click To Tweet
What size company should they start getting a coach? How many employees would you say?
My smallest office is 1 doctor and 2 employees.
Do they have a coach?
They have me. I’m not physically there.
Hire a coach and have you as that liaison.
I do Zoom and I do group coaching. That’s why it’s affordable, but the thing is everything is by phone. I’m very busy from 4:00 to 7:00. Everybody calls me on their way home from work to tell me what happened that day at work.
Employees calling you the owners calling you, or both?
I gave everybody my phone number. I have got a client. It’s a medical practice. There are six locations. There are maybe 30 associate doctors and 50 women nurses or front office. One of the locations manager calls me up. She says, “I got 5 women here complaining about 1 of the associate doctors.” The next morning, I drove up there.
What we have to do is mediate. We get all the women together. I took the paper out of the copy machine. I want your name and your complaint. If you are good, I want your name and that you are good. Now I have got all the papers. I go into the private office with the owner and we shift through. These guys are fine. These are the ones with the complaints. Now we invite the women in one by one to tell us what their complaint is.
You do welcome both owners and employees to communicate?
What advice would you give employees who experience sexual harassment, but may be hesitant to come forward and report it?
It’s all individual like what happens? If it’s bad, I had one of my clients, they called me after the fact, but one of my clients was taking out the garbage in the alley and she got raped like full-on sexual assault. Nobody takes out garbage alone. Two at a time. One person stands at the door with the phone, the other one throws the bag in the dumpster. This was a medical.
Was this by a stranger or somebody who works there?
No. Rape is very seldom done by a stranger. This is the doctor’s office in a strip mall. After the last patient goes, they lock the door, clean up, and then they all sit in the waiting room because they walk out to the cars together. They are like, “Where’s Susie?” “She took out the trash.” She’s in the alley getting raped.
I have to define this. By one of the company employees?
No. By the guy who works two stores down. He’s watching her. Sexual assault. You are being watched. Very seldom isn’t random.
I understand that. We are talking about sexual harassment or rape in the workplace. That’s why I wanted to confirm. Is it workplace or was it not in the workplace?
This was the guy who worked two doors down. He knew every day at 5:15 she was out at the garbage can.
You needed to change your habits too.
Change your habits.
Watch what you post on social media and always go to. What advice would you give employees who experience sexual harassment but may be hesitant to come forward to report it?
This is why people hire me on the team. To give your employees somebody to talk to.
They don’t hire you or don’t know you. They can reach out to certain resources for sexual harassment.
There are all kinds of phone numbers. People who have their online training. That’s why online training, I’m not a big fan of because online training at the end has the phone number. Here’s the state number. If you have a problem, call us. When the employees call the state, the state will turn around. Once you are in the state system, they are going to sue you. That’s why online training is not great for business owners.
In Illinois, what happens if you are an employee and you have a problem with one of the customers? Let’s say a dental hygienist. Every time the same guy comes in to get his teeth cleaned, he accidentally rubs her butt. She’s going to go home and she’s going to call the state on the guy that’s inappropriately touching her, but in reality, what she did was turn in her boss. There’s going to be an investigation and now he or she is in the system.
What do you suggest they do if they are not supposed to call and get that owner in the system?
My clients all call me and then we mediate. That’s my job is to mediate and fix it before it explodes. I fix things before the lawyers
I always say, “Who cares?” A lot of employees, women specifically would say, “Who cares if he’s in the system? He is sexually harassed by me,” and that’s why a lot of them call. What’s your rebuttal to that?
She didn’t call on her boss. Her boss may be a great guy. She called on the patient. The patient doesn’t get in trouble. It’s the owner of the practice that gets in trouble.
You are saying that the patient abused her or the secretary abused her? When she calls in, she’s reporting the owner.
The general duty clause of OSHA says that employers are responsible for providing a safe and helpful workplace.Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. Click To Tweet
What if it was the doctor himself? Do you suggest that they call that 1-800 and report their doctor or do you suggest they still call you?
If the doctor is my client, he knows better because I make sure everybody knows.
The doctor is not your client. Everybody who’s reading this now.
Most business owners are smart enough. They are not going to do anything to jeopardize their business. Most of these sexual harassment claims come from other people from either customers or people working together. A lot of visitors in your office. The UPS man, the FedEx guy, and the reps coming in and out. Most business owners, especially if you have a license, if you are a lawyer, doctor, or something, you protect that license. You are not going to do anything to screw your livelihood.
Unless they are pathological. What did you say your second husband was?
Psychopath. That’s what the doctors called him. Not me.
I have a doctor here in Louisiana that had sexually harassed a patient after a patient. It happened to me by a business owner. It does happen a lot by employers for sure. At that point, it’s almost on your employer. It’s a good conversation we are having right now. Are there industry-specific challenges or trends related to sexual harassment that businesses should be aware of?
Nurses and dental hygienists file the most claims. They are alone with the patient. They are alone in the room and get touched the most.
By the patients. Not the doctor. Let’s point that out. Let me be very clear. I don’t think all of us pay attention. A lot of times when we think of sexual harassment in the workplace, we do, a lot of times, think it’s by the owner or by the supervisor, by the manager, general manager, COO, or whatever it might be, and then maybe sometimes fellow employees. You have to take into consideration what Deborah is saying. It could be by the employees or patients.
Any human can harass another human. The biggest demographic is 16 to 35-year-old women. The waitresses. The women who are working at the gap. The housekeeping at the hotels. Could you imagine being in a room trying to make a bed and there’s a guy in there? You are here anyway. Leave them alone. Let them get their job done.
Those who are working alone or, like you said, nurses or dental hygienists. People in bars and restaurants are sexually harassed. What role do leaders and managers play in creating a safe and respectful workplace environment and what strategies can they implement to prevent sexual harassment?
Your employees have to know that you are going to protect them. If you are a boss owner, and one of your employees comes in and says, “That customer over there or that patient in Room 4, he’s creepy. I don’t want to be alone with them.” You fix it. You go in there with them.
My doctors always have a nurse or they have a female in the room.
As far as the dental hygienists who work alone in the room, a lot of them have buzzers. They have a buzz system. If you have a patient and you don’t want to be alone in the room, send out the buzz and somebody else will come in. “Do you need help in here?” “Yes. Can you hand me this?” Now you have two people in the room.
They know what the reason is that they are going in the first place because they push a button not because they need something. How do real estate agents protect themselves?
Their safety and numbers. As far as women working alone, the check-in system is. “I’m going to be alone with this guy for an hour. We are going to go to three houses. Here are the addresses of all three houses. I’m going to call you in an hour.” We will now have the phone call. There are apps on your phone that will text people for you. There’s safety jewelry that if you press it, will text five people your location. If you press it three times, it will text 911 and they already have your location and they will come to get you.
There’s a friend of mine who I met at a mastermind who works for the FBI. There are databases out there that you can take someone’s phone number, put it in there, and find out what their arrest record or police record is. There are a lot of things you can do like that as well before you go and meet somebody you have never met before.
Feed your people and customers.
I suggest single women do that when they go to meet men for the first time. Are there any new case studies or examples of businesses that have effectively handled sexual harassment issues that you can share as success stories on learning experiences? It is something that somebody should emulate. Do you have any of those case studies that other companies are wanting to emulate?
I don’t have a case study at the top of my head. I could probably research and give you a link.
What are the illegal obligations that businesses have in addressing and preventing sexual harassment? Let’s talk about that because we want to protect the employees and business owners. Another big thing here is there are always two sides to every story. Is it sexual harassment or is somebody disgruntled? I’m sure you deal with that.
This program is crushing small businesses. It’s creating a new level of crime, a new way for people to steal from the business owner. I’m going to tell you a story. I was at a manufacturer, a big plant, a big factory, and the lunch room, they called it the zoo. The men and the women both told me that we eat lunch in the zoo.
One of the women went in there and she very seductively ate a banana, and the men went crazy yelling and screaming and egging on. “Give us a show.” Everybody goes back to work. A week later, she goes into the lunchroom. She takes a banana out of her box and puts it on the table. The men went wild again yelling and screaming right to HR.
By the time I got there, what we had to do is we had to fire four men and she was protected. You cannot fire somebody for reporting sexual harassment. Her job was protected, and even the men said, “Last week she did.” I said, “Nobody reported her inappropriate behavior. She reported your inappropriate behavior.” What’s going to happen now? She threatened to sue. We came to an agreement. The owner is going to give her $20,000 and fire the four guys.
She started that.
From the business owner’s eyes, he says, “I’m rolling into the Christmas season down four of the big strong men that worked in the factory.”
They don’t have an issue with it before.
No. Those four guys have to go home and explain to their wives why there’s no money because they can’t behave at work. The woman, her job is protected so she can leisurely look for another job while she’s got a pay paycheck here, and then the business owner had to write a check for $20,000.
You have some good points. What percentage of the women, men, or all reported legit versus trying to get something out of it?
I would say before, women didn’t report it. They didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want this to happen, but now that this new law is here, this law isn’t about keeping women safe. It’s about getting more into the court system. Think of it like a red light camera. Eventually, they are going to trip you up and they are going to catch you and you are going to get a fine. You have to stop thinking, “This is never going to happen to me.” You have to start thinking, “Am I prepared for when it happens to me?”
Mediation. When I go and meditate, I can tell if they are lying. I can tell if they are making it up. I talked to the woman. I talked to the other women. I talk to everybody there independently. If they all have the same story, it probably did happen. If they all have their version of something different, it might be made up.
People can lie a lot too. Is there an average of how many are actual versus making it up? Is there any percentage out there?
I don’t have a percentage. The law only passed last 2022. This is all very new.
Explain that law to us one more time, please.
Every employee in the seven states, it’s mandated that every employee have one hour of sexual harassment prevention training per year.
The business owner needs to pay for that.
Business owners must provide it, but it’s not only one-and-done. If you hold a license, you need one hour per license renewal. If you are a boss, supervisor, or team lead, you need a second hour. If you are a medical person, you need a mandated reporter. Does anyone have a headache? This is a money maker for the state. It’s so hard to be compliant.
It’s not federal. It’s at a state level.
It’s state level.
Repeat those seven states. If my team can get those dates in there they have to pay for employee sexual training. What are the states?
The states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New York, Washington, and Washington, DC. The rest of the states are highly recommended. Every time I go on and look one more state is added. It’s going.
Who decisions on the state level? Is it the governor who makes that decision on the state level?
In our state, the governor decided.
It’s a governor decision?
I think so.
Do you think it’s a good law?
It’s good that everyone gets a reminder of how to behave at work, but we are adults. By the time you get to be a working adult, you should be able to behave at work. Unfortunately, some people don’t like the factory workers who eat lunch in the zoo room.
You would think so, but then you got a lot of people, like you said, who are narcissists and pathological, or maybe have some mental health issues. You got those people who maybe were sexually abused and that’s the inner subconscious. There are all types of things that you could dig pretty deep to see why this happened. That’s a new mandate. It’s a good thing we think because it teaches everybody how to behave. What happens when a business owner reports it to the state and where do you come in?
The first thing you do is hire a lawyer and then you hire a mediator. I’m a mediator.
How many states can you mediate in?
I’m licensed in Illinois to mediate and give the CEs. Mediation, I don’t think you need a license for. My license is to give the CE credits. The mediation comes under my degree.
We need a mediator in Texas. Can you do a mediation in Texas?
I would check the state law first, but I’m pretty sure I can do it.
In some states, you have to be licensed in that state. Get an attorney and then they bring you on as a mediator.
Now the state is going to put investigators in your business. They are going to talk to you, your customers, and your employees. That might take 6 to eighteen months. Once it hits the Facebook group of the town you live in, you are going to lose 40% of business overnight. Gossip. It’s very fast.
At the launch of the mediation or what are we talking about?
As soon as investigators are in your business because of sexual harassment, gossip is fast. It’s going to hit the Facebook group. I have got a restaurant guy and it was five restaurants. He says, “I wasn’t even in the building. I was cooking down at the other restaurant.” In one of the other locations, he had it. He says, “COVID was nothing compared to what this has done to the one location where the claim was. Do you know why? It’s because everybody goes to the red light. We are not going to eat in there. They don’t treat the women well in there,” and that’s it. You have lost your customer base.
What’s the validity of that case for that restaurant? Was there any validity to it?
Yeah. One of the waitresses had a claim against somebody else. I can’t go into it, but there was a claim in there and it hit the Facebook group.
Was it a patron or an employee?
I can’t say. One of the women was unhappy about something that happened in that location, and she went down to court and they had to go to court. It was a big mess, but out of his five locations, that one location production dropped.
Do you do a deep dive? You said you do a deep dive to get to the real story. Did it happen? If it happened, then God bless the woman and the business owner should be held accountable. It’s false information because somebody’s got an agenda like getting $20,000 before Christmas. Are you able to break through that get to the truth and protect the business?
A lot of the time. Most of the time I am. You figure out if they are lying and then you get down to the bottom of it and how are we going to fix it? How are we going to fix this right here, the three of us before we start involving other people?
To me, if it’s true, then the business owner should be held accountable.
If it’s true, we do our best to accommodate and make it up to them. I have had business owners that have said, “Take a few weeks off. Here’s two months’ pay. Go home and rest for a little while and your job will be here when you get back.” That’s a good boss. Other times if we see through it gets a little different.
The boss is responsible and the boss needs to be held accountable for that action because we want to make sure we protect men and women in the workplace. We also want to make sure we don’t have these frivolous claims being thrown out.
Everybody should be safe at work, but you can’t go to work and get bullied.
They haven’t fixed it in the schoolyard. Maybe you can fix it in the workspace. How can businesses develop effective policies and reporting mechanisms to address sexual harassment while protecting the rights of all parties involved?
Every business should have a sexual harassment policy that should be part of your sign-on onboarding. You should, they should sign, this is what we expect, this is how we behave, and this is, and there are all kinds of them online. You can Google and you can go on your state government and come in sexual harassment and they should have a sexual harassment policy. I encourage you to use the one from your state because if you do end up in court, that’s the one that they are going to use. You are going to want to be at the same standard.Every business should have a sexual harassment policy. Follow your state's policy so you have the same standard. Click To Tweet
What if it’s reversed where you have a female or a male employee flirting and making advances toward the owner?
You have to distance yourself and you say that this is not acceptable behavior. This is not how we work here.
There should be a policy in place to back that up and have them sent off on that.
You want to have their sexual harassment prevention training the first week they are on the job. The sooner the better, and you want to have a policy that’s going to be part of their onboarding package. “This is how we behave here. This is what we allow and this is what we don’t allow.” One business owner said, “My assistant’s father died and I gave her a hug.” That’s not sexual harassment. You were comforting somebody who was crying.
That’s a good point that you made. What defines sexual harassment? I’m a hugger. You met me. I give everybody hugs. What does that stand in the line?
The men are all said, “I can’t even tell anybody. They look nice.” Sure you can. “Great outfit today. You look fantastic,” or, “Your ass looks great in that dress.” Do you see the difference there? You can compliment.
It’s common sense, but common sense is not so common anymore.
If you are raised with manners and common sense, this is not hard, but unfortunately, the other people coming up don’t have the manners that other people have.
You can shake hands, you can give hugs, and you can give compliments. When does it cross that line? When you say, “Your ass looks good in that.”
If you say you are a hugger. If you go to hug somebody and they are not comfortable being hugged and they say, “Fist pump.” You are not going to fight the fist pump to give them a hug. You are going to say, “That’s their level of comfort, fist pump.” You have to take cues from the other person, and everybody has their bubble. A lot of women call me as like, “I’m trying to make an appointment and do some computer work, and my boss comes and he puts his hand on my shoulder and he is looking at the computer.” Bosses don’t need to oversee and look and see what their people are doing on the computer. You certainly don’t need to lean into their bubble to do that.Everybody has their bubble, and you don't need to lean into your employee's bubble. You have to take cues from the other person. Click To Tweet
In some cases, you do, especially if you have an employee who’s repetitively going online and doing things on social media and things like that. We once had a client that had an employee, a sales rep that was making about $175,000 a year that was watching porn all day on the computer.
There are programs for that.
Employees have the right to look and see what’s being done in your company.
Not come up and touch them and come in up to their face.
You don’t need to come up and touch them unless you have a culture where everybody’s huggy or touchy, and that’s how your culture is. It goes back to common sense as most of the staff ask. What are the most common signs or indicators of toxic workplace culture that may contribute to sexual harassment?
Anything that makes your gut. You roll, “Patient Joe is coming in tomorrow. I’m going to call him sick. I don’t even want to be near him.” Now all of a sudden, you are down in employee. You have ten patients there with nobody to help them. The same thing with if it makes your stomach upset. You can feel it in your gut that you don’t like being around another person. You exit. Move yourself. See if you can work in a different place. Not a different location. Two offices down or whatever.
Report this to your employer. Say you are uncomfortable taking care of this patient. Tell him the reasons why. If it was my business, I would probably not see that patient again.
As business owners, we have the right to pick and choose our customers. If you have a customer that makes you crazy, you cannot do business with that person. “I’m going to refer you over here to this company. My schedule is full. Thank you.” That’s all. You don’t have to get into it. You dismiss them.
Don’t send that patient to your best friend. Send it to your enemy. No, I’m kidding. Could you share some best practices, but does conduct sexual harassment training and awareness programs with an organization?
I would highly recommend hiring me or somebody like me instead of going to an online program. You want a live person to give your employees somebody to call when something goes wrong. As a business owner, when somebody goes wrong, you don’t want to start googling, “What do I do?” You want speed dial. “I got a problem. Come fix it.”
What is the online program offering? Is that just training online?
Watch a video and answer a couple of questions. Who do you call if you have a problem? Call the state. Done. Fast, cheap, and easy. We all know what you get when you buy fast, cheap, and easy.
If somebody is making false accusations, and we know they do. We know that women and men have been abused in the workplace. We are not saying that doesn’t happen because that happens, but there are also women and men out there who make false accusations. What recourse does a business owner have when that happens? Look at this business owner who lost four of his good guys right before the holidays to have to keep this woman on and pay her $20,000. What recourse do we have for these false accusations?
My offices, I don’t think that would have happened because I’m in contact with all. I would have known her behavior. I would have known that was a characteristic of her and we would have had a close eye on her so she would have known that go in a room full of men and eat a banana. Ladylike behavior. She did not exhibit ladylike behavior. She was doing it to roll up the men in the room and get attention.
Part of her strategic plan to begin with. It is about the men putting a banana down there and having them do it again, and then turning them in and filing a complaint with the state. Do you think that was part of a strategic plan?
She was out to get a whole lot of attention and it happened. Once she realized that she wasn’t going to have to wait five years to go to court to get a check, she could settle out of court and get a little payday. It was part of her plan. As soon as the other women in the country figure this out, it’s going to happen again.
How do you keep employees from not calling a state and calling you directly because you represent the employer or the business owner? How do you keep those employees from going directly and making those calls to the state? As you said, once you are in a system, you are in the system. Do you ever get out once you are in there?
No. Once you are in the system, you can no longer say, “We are going to figure this out by ourselves.” They don’t care. You are going to go through the process.
You can prove your innocence and hopefully be deleted from the system.
It still takes 2 to 3 years and you have lost 40% of your business. It’s a real headache.
Employees are to call you and not call the state.
The offices that I represent are part of the office training, here’s what we do. The first line of defense is to call Deb. As soon as they are hired, I do all the new employee onboarding and training. I do mediation and termination. I’m in contact with your employees. I do a monthly Zoom room where some offices are mandatory and they have to be on Zoom with me once a month. Some offices are like, “Call Deb if you need her.” I let the business owners decide how they want to work it, but for some of them, I’m part of the monthly training. We have a Zoom once a month and phone calls, they are always welcome to call me. We track it all ahead of time so it doesn’t get to the explosion where you have to hire a lawyer.
A company full of men. Are they your ideal client? It sounds like a more ideal client or like the doctors, attorneys, and businesses that have men and women working versus an office full of women or an office full of men.
I have a construction company and I was doing training at a construction company. The one kid I went to high school with his mother, I have known him since diapers. Here’s a room full of 33-year-old men and they were harassing me as I was doing the training. I’m like, “Have fun all you want, but you have to know what the rules are. If you pull this in front of a twenty-year-old woman and she reports you, then what? It’s all fine. Danny, you are going to joke around with Deb in the room, but we can’t do this.”
We are joking a little bit here, but this is ladies and gents, this is a serious subject. If anyone is sexually harassed and its serious owners are turned in and there’s no validity to that case, it can ruin a business owner’s business. This is real stuff. Is there going to be any technology, AI, Artificial Intelligence, or anything like that coming forward that’s going to help prevent these issues in the workplace?
I haven’t heard of any. Maybe you can invent that. Put it on your AI list because I heard you talk about that. I have not heard of any. This is a relationship business. The better relationship I have with your employees, the better time you are going to have with your employees. Let’s talk about domestic violence.
Domestic violence is 1 out of 3 women. If you have a bunch of women there, you may have some that are not having a good time at home. Business owners also lose money with women who are victims of domestic violence. They miss a lot of work. As a business owner, you are never going to get a phone call. I got a black eye. I got to stay home for three days. I have got the flu, I have got this, and I have got that. When they come to work, they are not working at 100% because they are worried about what’s going on at home, and then that’s when the crazy husband comes in with the gun and shoots everybody.
You coach with that too, with domestic violence.
I’m a domestic violence advocate, yes.
Part of our event was a domestic event and fundraiser. It was sad because I lost two women that were coming to the event due to domestic violence. You help deal with that too in the workplace. There are men that get abused too, but it’s mostly women.
Men are never going to admit it. Sometimes the men will call me and say, “Don’t tell anybody. I got to figure out how I handle this.” If a man is getting hit by his wife and he’s a good man, he’s not going to hit back. He is like, “She keeps hitting me. What do I do?” You have to work through it. It’s a violent situation. Sometimes the woman is the abuser and the man will never admit to it. In the meantime, he’s like, “I’m watching TV minding my own business and she’s attacking me.” Being a good man, you are not going to hit back, but they don’t call the police and say, “My wife is beating me up.” I’m a confidential advisor, so anybody who calls me and tells me anything, I’m not going to call it.
You deal with that in a workplace, because let’s face it, there’s so much loss of productivity and efficiency because of people’s baggage. Now I’m not calling domestic violence baggage. It’s real. We have to deal with it. If we truly want to retain good employees, we have to be part of that team. We have to be sensitive to that, but it’s good that you are helping with that because there is a lot of missed time. They can be there physically, but mentally not working at all. That’s good that you do that. As we look to the future, what do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the ongoing fight against sexual harassment in the workplace?
I think that every generation of young women who enter the workforce is less tolerant of unacceptable behavior and more willing to make a claim. You look at the different generations. The women who worked in the ’60s, put up with everything and they were told they were taught to be good girls keep their mouths shut, and be lucky you have a job.Every generation of young women who enter the workforce are less tolerant of unacceptable behavior and more willing to make a claim. Click To Tweet
They raise the next generation. The women in their twenties now are a lot stronger than two generations ago. It’s tough on the men because they still want it to be the good old boys club and they want to be able to tell a joke. I’m not talking about one dirty joke one day at the lunch table, but if you are eating your lunch in the car because you can’t stand the language in the lunchroom every single day, you see the difference.
That needs to be reported. To the state ladies. We are going to talk all about you and how people can get in contact with you. Other than you, what resources and support networks are available to businesses seeking guidance and addressing sexual harassment? Can you talk a few?
There’s not a lot. I have heard two people say that they think I’m the only one in the country doing this because it’s so new that they haven’t been made yet.
The mandate is new, but if somebody is suffering sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace, who should they reach out to?
Every state has phone numbers. There’s domestic violence and sexual assault. 1-800 numbers all over. You have to Google your state and something will come up.
This law is new.
Little over a year and it’s already changed. In Illinois, it’s changed.
What did it change to in Illinois?
They added more training for the City of Chicago people. They are trying to trip you up so you are not compliant. When they make a visit to your office and ask for all your certificates if you are taking one course online, “Here’s my certificate.” “What about the other three courses? You are not compliant.” Think red light camera people. It’s a money maker.
What advice or key takeaways would you like our readers to remember when it comes to creating safe and respectful workplaces free from sexual harassment?
From a business owner’s point of view, make sexual harassment training part of your onboarding package. Do training once a year, whether it’s required in your state or not, and make sure all of your employees know that they can come to you. You have to have a nice environment. If your employees are afraid of you, they are not going to come to you. They have to know if ever anything is wrong, you come. Talk to me personally. Don’t ever bring a young lady into your office and shut the door without a camera. Cameras everywhere. Cameras in the hallways, in private offices, waiting rooms, and lunch rooms. Don’t shut your door and be alone with another human without a camera going, and let them know if they have a problem, they can come to you.Don't shut your door and be alone with another human without a camera because a human can harass another human. Click To Tweet
Woman on woman or man on man.
Any human can harass another human. I would not bring anyone into my office and shut the door. I have an open-door policy.
All the time, but guess what? I also have cameras everywhere. What takeaway would you give to any employees who may be reading that have a valid sexual harassment issue that they are suffering in the workplace? What takeaway would you get them?
I would say go to your business owner and say, “This is making me uncomfortable. I don’t like it. It’s giving me the creeps. Can I work with you? How can we fix this before it blows up?” Nobody wants anything to blow up. It’s not good for anybody to fix problems when they are small. “I know so and so in the lunchroom is only trying to be funny, but every day the dirty jokes, are getting a bit much. Can you do anything about it?” All of a sudden, there’s a paper in the lunchroom. “No dirty jokes at lunch.” It could be as simple as that.
People have business owners need to pay attention to culture and management. If departments need to pay attention to culture, what do you want your culture to be? Do you want your culture to be telling dirty jokes right in the lunchroom? That might work well in a construction environment or any type of business. Most companies don’t want that to be part of their culture, we would hope.
How do we get in touch with you? Before you answer, let me say this. It’s hard to read the label from the inside of the bottle. You need an outsider’s perspective to read the warning signs and keep people out of the danger zones. Everybody should hire a coach. Everybody should hire an expert in areas that are not your strengths, not your core competencies, and not your areas of expertise. It’s important to get in contact with Deborah McPhee and see how she can help you to make sure that you are compliant because this type of issue can put you literally out of business and make it very difficult for you to ever get back into business. How do all businesses get ahold of you?
I have an office in downtown Chicago. My phone number is (312) 533-1994. My website is my name, DeborahMcPhee.com.
Anybody that wants me to call them, throw me a text or go on the way. You can schedule on the website, but throw me a text and I will give you a call and we will answer any more questions.
I encourage anyone to reach out to her, find out the dos and don’ts, and how you can walk with her. She has an inexpensive way so it doesn’t have to be overly priced. It’s like people say, “I don’t need an assistant.” You don’t have an assistant. You are the assistant. “I don’t need a sexual harassment coach.” You say you don’t need it now and then you will be wishing that you would have done it as something were to happen because it’s not much been. It’s what they hope you keep and save.
The people who call me after the emergency versus calling me before the emergency. Before every emergency, there’s a chance to plan. Take it.
Most people call after the emergency so let’s be proactive. Any last-minute thoughts?
Thank you for inviting me. I so enjoyed meeting you and listening to you speak. This is new and it’s so new that there’s not a lot of processes and systems in place yet. Think about it as a business owner of putting some system in your office manual and on your onboarding practices to prevent this.
Start with your processes. Your policies, procedures, handbooks, and employee documents. Start there, but drop on the phone with Deborah and find out the do’s and don’ts and align yourself with Deborah or somebody like Deborah as the expert in sexual harassment because this is not something you want to be involved in or included in.
Thank you so much Deborah for being our guest. You told us so many things that I didn’t know and a lot of our readers didn’t know. We are here to learn together. I know you love this episode. Make sure you share it. Make sure you share it with your network and your circle of influencers. Make sure you share it with business owners and make sure you get the message out and take this seriously. It’s important. Make sure you subscribe to Exit Rich. Go ahead, Deborah.
I was going to say that I’m also a speaker too. If you have an event, association, convention, or something that you need me to come and do a presentation, I also do that as well.
Thank you again, Deborah. Thanks again to all my readers. Until we see you next episode.
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