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Survey finds that in tech, retaliation for speaking up about workplace discrimination is common

Janet Nguyen and David Brancaccio Jul 24, 2018
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Almost half of tech employees who reported incidents at their workplace, like sexual harassment, have faced backlash from management or HR, according to the anonymous app Blind.  

Blind, which allows tech workers to talk anonymously about their companies’ culture and compensation policies, recently asked its users: “At your current workplace, have you or your co-workers experienced retaliation by management or HR after reporting an incident?”

A total of 4,386 people from major tech companies responded, with 41.4 percent saying “Yes.”

LinkedIn and Facebook showed the lowest numbers of retaliation, while Airbnb had the highest at 56.45 percent.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its own report about charges of workplace discrimination in the fiscal year 2017. It showed that of the 84,254 charges it received, retaliation was the No. 1 charge at 41,097 cases. That amounts to about half of the total charges, reflecting the data in Blind’s survey.

Companies and their HR departments have started to face increasing scrutiny over the way they handle claims related to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, wrote a blog last year about her experience with those issues at the tech company, which eventually led to the firing of more than 20 employees.  

At one meeting, Fowler recounts how an HR rep had asked if she had ever considered that she was “the problem.”

If you look at the history of human resources departments, you’ll find that their role was never to protect employees. Their No. 1 priority has been about protecting the company, although sometimes those goals aligned with employee needs.

HR departments started in the 1900s as a way to reduce turnover and improve performance — their staff would collect grievances about issues that caused employees to leave.

But whatever their origins, ultimately, a bad HR department is to the company’s detriment.

“If you do not have a strategic and thoughtful HR capability I think you’re at much bigger risk of literally being uncompetitive or irrelevant in your market space,” said Bill Filip, co-founder and managing director of Delancey Street Partners. “I honestly think that the companies are winning today are winning because they understand that they have to have the best talent. I know that sounds really trite but it is absolutely true and there’s so many great market examples of that.”

Click the above audio player to listen to the full interview with Curie Kim, who runs growth and marketing for Blind. 

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