AUSTIN (KXAN) — With sexual assault at the forefront of discussion in workplaces across the country, many Austin businesses are working proactively to avoid similar conflicts. HR professionals say they’re seeing an influx in business leaders asking for help preventing such situations.
“The phones are ringing a lot and emails are coming in,” said Laurie Howell, who runs Austin HR with her business partner, David Hughen.
The pair says usually their company sees businesses reach out after an instance of harassment or assault, for help handling the issue. However, they say in the midst of nationwide conversation regarding sexual assault, more business leaders are being proactive.
“This is companies that maybe not have traditionally thought to reach out,” Howell said.
“People of high profile are losing their jobs,” Howell added. “That’s a sobering moment for a manager in a company.”
The pair says small and medium sized companies across Austin are asking for guidance and training. Austin HR offers training for both managers and employees. For those in power, the company trains in how not to overstep their boundaries. Training for employees focuses on reporting sexual misconduct.
“Sometimes, having an outside third party come in, people are a little more comfortable to bring things up,” Howell said.
Hughen says Austin’s business climate is unique, with many start-ups that mostly employ and are run by millennials who tend to communicate more casually.
“That blurs the lines,” he said.
Hughen says sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new, but it’s top of mind now, which is creating change.
“There’s some processing going on,” he said, “And in and of itself, these stories are educational moments that are happening.”
Hughen also says it’s the right time of year for raising awareness. Companies are planning out their goals and employee programs for Fiscal Year 2018, and many are opting to include sexual misconduct training in the coming year.