Millennials Increasingly Using Social Media to Challenge Harassment and Discrimination

The Times They are a-changin Fifty-five percent of millennials — today’s 80 million-strong generation of 18 to 34 year olds — say a prospective employer’s online reputation matters as much as the job it offers, according to a survey by Spherion Staffing.

As someone who wrote her first law school paper on an electric typewriter, I continue to be struck by the magnitude of change that social media has brought to the business world. In the not too distant past, employees who weren’t satisfied with how their employer responded to a complaint of harassment or discrimination had few options. They could go down to their local office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and file a charge, hire a lawyer to bring a claim, or try to find a journalist to write an article about their plight.

Oh how times have changed.

A post this week on brought yet another example of just how much times have changed. For those who don’t know what Gawker is, it is a blog founded in 2003 and the flagship blog for Gawker Media. According to the Washington Post, Gawker Media has more readers than the top-circulation U.S. magazines

The blog post was authored by “Jane Doe” and is titled “Twenty Days of Harassments and Racism as an American Apparel Employee.” It was filed under “shitty jobs” on the blog. As I write this blog, the post has been shared on Facebook 8.2K times and has had 754 comments.

The blog post purports to be based on a diary of a recent college graduate who took a job at American Apparel because she “was drawn to the company” because she tries “to make ethical consumer decisions” and she “appreciated that American Apparel pays their garment workers well and doesn’t use sweatshops.” In the blog post she does note that although she was “very wary of the sexual harassment allegations against the company’s former CEO, Dov Charney” she felt that “[b]ecause he had recently been asked to step down from his position, it seemed like the company was making progress.”

The author writes that “[i]n retrospect, I should’ve been more wary of a company with a history of outrageous unprofessionalism. What I hoped would be a low-stress, part-time job turned out to be a major source of anxiety and a cesspool of harassment. The incompetent, appallingly racist management and belittling of employees were commonplace, and created a hostile work environment.”

Click here to read the full blog post.

Implications for Business Leaders

The magnitude of the changes underway means that a fundamental rethink of how employers respond to internal complaints of workplace misconduct like harassment and discrimination is needed. The question for business leaders in this brave new world is – do your employees trust your internal complaint process? Do they trust that their manager and HR professionals will conduct an impartial and fair investigation into their complaints?

Studies show that employee trust is key to getting your employees to raise their complaints internally vs. going public on social media and becoming a whistleblower.

In this era of increasing regulation and whistleblower protections, almost all business leaders recognize the need to have robust complaint mechanisms in place for employee concerns.  Business leaders though who want to most effectively compete for and retain millennial talent are taking it a step further and working to ensure they have a well-developed process in place that is trusted by employees for resolving the employee concerns received.


workplace investigations groupWorkplace Investigation Group trains in-house counsel, risk managers, and human resources professionals on all aspects of workplace investigations into alleged bullying, discrimination, harassment and retaliation.  Click here for information on upcoming training that is available in the coming months in Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., Metro-New York City, Hartford, CT, Scottsdale, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Denver, CO, Cincinnati, OH, and Chicago, IL.



Millennials Increasingly Using Social Media to Challenge Harassment and Discrimination — 1 Comment

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