As the #MeToo movement has so poignantly illustrated, nobody should ever be harassed or abused by those in power. What started as an entertainment industry issue has now shed light on the prevalence of workplace sexual abuse — and the institutional suppression of victims— in athletics, religious institutions, hospitality, gaming, finance, government and certainly commercial real estate.
High-profile allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in commercial real estate predate the #MeToo movement. Some more notable cases include an April, 2017 sexual harassment, gender discrimination and wrongful termination claim filed by a former female salesperson against the prominent Los Angeles brokerage NGKF, the firm’s former managing director Michael Arnold, and two other executives at the firm. One of the executives named in the suit is the firm’s director of operations to whom the plaintiff reported the issues and who responded “there was nothing he could do.” And in January, 2018, the Financial Times uncovered numerous counts of sexual harassment and exploitation at a London charity event, The President’s Club, heavily attended by executives in the UK commercial real estate business. Allegations of abuse and exploitation of women are also surfacing at top industry conventions including the International Council of Shopping Centers (“ICSC”) RECon Convention and the Le Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier (“MIPIM”) conference.
In the decade from 2005-2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received about 85,000 sexual harassment complaints, 1,700 of which were from the real estate profession.
- That’s 1,700 real estate professionals who felt their workplaces were hostile
- That’s 1,700 companies and executive teams who had to hire attorneys, insurance professionals and public relations experts to investigate and address these claims
- According to EEOC statistics, 80% of these claims were filed by women
- Worse yet, 75% of claims were accompanied by some form of alleged retaliation by the employer/accused
Since the #MeToo movement took hold, Alper Services has received a large number of inquiries from Clients wanting to ensure their workplaces, leadership, and employees are not part of the next case. Drawing upon decades of experience, our answer is simple— use the movement to take an inward look at your company from top to bottom. Ask yourself if everyone is working to create a culture of openness, fairness and zero tolerance. Top leadership must also lead by example and all levels of management must identify and remedy issues before they arise while at the same time creating open communication channels and taking quick and fair disciplinary action whenever required.
Your Alper Services “Team of Experts” is here to ensure you have the right mix of legal, cultural, human resources and insurance protections to combat harassment and to ensure nobody in your organization will ever have to use the phrase #MeToo.