Understanding—and Alleviating—Concerns Over False Reporting

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At the tail end of 2018—roughly a year since #MeToo had first taken hold within the national discourse—The Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult released the results of a survey. The questions centered largely around workplace dynamics and perceptions surrounding the broad cultural reckoning brought about by movements like #MeToo.

Of the over 2,000 individuals surveyed, 55% were “very concerned” about men being falsely accused of harassment or assault in the workplace. (That 55% figure held true for both men and women.) 26% reported feeling “somewhat concerned,” 9% were “not too concerned,” and 5% were “not concerned at all.”

Despite broad acknowledgement—if not outright celebration—of the fact that #MeToo helped shine a light on systemic issues of harassment and mistreatment across nearly all industries, and empowered the often marginalized individuals formerly suffering in silence, clearly there is still some societal fear over what these cultural shifts might mean.

And that’s certainly not a good thing, for a wide range of reasons.

Just How Common Are False Reports?

Any distrust in the groups and systems that oversee allegations of workplace mistreatment are inherently detrimental to their effectiveness. If a person suffering from unfair treatment expects their complaint to be ignored or dismissed, they are less likely to report in the first place. Employees being skeptical of their colleagues’ experiences of workplace mistreatment cultivates an environment hardly conducive to supportive allyship.

That 55% of people are very concerned about the idea of false allegations—a higher percentage than consider sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender-based descrimination a “major problem,” according to the same survey—is a problem for HR teams. But just how valid are these concerns? 

Not every instance of reported workplace mistreatment occurs in violation of the law. So not every instance of reported workplace mistreatment winds up documented outside of the company to local authorities. Accordingly, data surrounding reporting—and false reports—is hard to come by. 

However, it’s estimated by the EEOC that 87-94% of those who experience harassment at work never report it. That’s a similar figure to the percentage of sexual assault victims who will not come forward—roughly 95%. Only 8-10% of sexual assault allegations are eventually deemed false, but per the Minnesota Law Review, “this number only affects the number of reported [incidents]; therefore, the amount of false reports in comparison to the total number of [incidents] is likely closer to .002 to .008%.” It’s an extrapolation, but it drives the point home that false allegations in general are extremely rare—and certainly rarer than instances of mistreatment.

Why Trust Matters

Combating workplace mistreatment requires trust in those reporting, by those evaluating the reports, and vice versa. And based on the fact that 55% of Americans are greatly concerned over false reports, we have a long way to go. One person doubting a victim’s story is one person too many. The extremely rare false allegation can sow seeds of doubt. 

Speakfully’s suite of documentation, reporting, and support resources can help across all fronts.

How Speakfully Can Help

From the first sign of something being wrong, the mistreated employee can begin to document details of the incident. Speakfully asks for details—the sort of details HR teams ask for and need while investigating—and allows workers to quickly, confidently, and discreetly chronicle their experiences with mistreatment. The more information that is gathered and included in a report, the more helpful it is in reaching the employee’s desired outcome.

When the mistreated employee is ready to submit their documentation of unfair treatment, Speakfully’s turnkey platform allows HR to utilize the same framework in investigating, as the employee did in reporting. Additionally, to further build trust between HR team and worker, the employee is notified of any progress with their investigation via Speakfully itself. And the HR team, armed with valuable insights into mistreatment—like times, locations, and the involved parties for individual instances of mistreatment, as well as data into potentially systemic issues—is better able to work on behalf of the victim, and take action based on a larger amount of information.

Lastly, Speakfully’s library of support and educational resources can prove invaluable not just in assisting the mistreated as they navigate their journey to justice, but to any employee hoping to learn more about workplace mistreatment. The better informed workplaces are about the workplace mistreatment, the better off all workers will be. More compassionate, empathetic, and educated workplaces mean fewer instances of misconduct to report in the first place.

We are working toward a world in which victims are believed, workplaces are trusting, transparent, and safe, and allegations of mistreatment are verifiable, actionable, and as painless for the victim as possible.