Local News

Amid high-profile sexual assault allegations, some local businesses are taking steps to be proactive

SPOKANE, Wash. - On Wednesday, long-time TODAY host Matt Lauer was fired by NBC following sexual harassment allegations.  

Lauer joins dozens of other men that have been accused of sexual harassment since allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made in early October. The New York Times keeps a running list of names, though it hasn't been updated to reflect allegations against not only Lauer, but also U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) and Minnesota Public Radio's Garrison Keillor. 

The discussion has consumed the national news cycle for nearly two months, and it's changing the way local companies view sexual harassment training. 

“It's scary really to employers who thought this isn't happening to me but it can be,” said Nicole Tedrow. 

Tedrow is the chief legal counsel at Associated Industries in Spokane. The company works with others on HR training, employment law and other workplace issues. 

Tedrow says they haven't seen an increase in complaints, which they often help businesses work through, but they have seen an increase in requests for training. Associated Industries works with about 600 clients. Tedrow said the list of businesses that are requesting training is the longest she's seen in her time with the company.  

“We want to make sure that we create an environment in the work places that people feel comfortable coming forward when they see something that is not right- whether it's happened to them or happening to someone else. Because that's how we fix things,” she said. 

Proactive behavior starts with having a solid policy, and making sure employees are familiar with it. 

“So we want to encourage employers to be aware and employees to be aware and to report so that they let someone know right away so employers can get right on it and correct it the first time they see it,” Tedrow said. “Putting it in your handbook is not enough,” she said. 

Tedrow said making reporting as non-complicated as possible for a victim of sexual harassment can lead to more effective resolution of the issue. So can ensuring that the policy is enforced form the “top, down.”

“I also think you can have the best policy in the world and the best training in the world but if the attitude doesn't come from the top down and it isn't really communicated to the workforce, like, 'these are the expectations we have for you in terms of behavior'  then I think it doesn't work,”she said. 

 Laws requiring sexual harassment training vary from state to state. Tedrow suggests, depending on the amount of turnover in a business' workforce, that training be refreshed at least every couple years. 

“I feel like it's really really important. I think it's one of the most important things we do,” she said.