Internationally, the evolution of whistleblowing (and protection for whistleblowers) seems to accelerate post massive scandals. The US securities and finance sector strengthened its whistleblower protections in the aftermath of the financial crisis in the late 2000s; Dieselgate, Cambridge Analytica, LuxLeaks—these are a few high-profile scandals that come to mind around the European Commission’s proposed whistleblower legislation. Las Vegas is no exception.
Following casino mogul Steve Wynn’s headlining sexual harassment scandal, Nevada’s regulators are taking a strong look at the policies that protect the gaming industry’s employees—as they should.
A welcomed breath of fresh air, recently appointed chairwoman of the Gaming Control Board—the first women in its history—Becky Harris declares change. And she has already embarked on that journey. Shortly after the Wynn scandal, Harris issued a notice to nearly 3,000 gaming licensees that the “the Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission would soon address the possible enactment of new rules.” Workgroups and discussions have already taken place as the gaming industry attempts to rectify the reality for women workers in Vegas.
It’s a much needed and commendable effort in a state which “leads the nation in sexual harassment complaints per capita,” according to a statement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bloomberg poignantly notes “few places in the U.S. are more perilous for women workers than Vegas.”
Creating an Effective Anti-Harassment Strategy
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has laid out a series of proposed amendments to regulation 5 which, among other operation factors, outlines requirements for a sexual harassment policy by licensees. As noted in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the ultimate goal is to make “sure that sexual harassment prevention measures are in place and that Control Board officials can investigate when needed.”
In a response to the proposed amendments, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 asked the Board to specifically address issues around vendors and third-party operators, customer harassment and non-disclosure agreements. It also highlighted some best practices for reporting that focus on the victim’s rights and ability to come forward. Other responses to the initiative have called it “complicated” or “overly complex.”
Part of an on-going discussion, the Nevada gaming industry continues to evaluate the factors of a successful anti-harassment strategy and how to better protect the workforce. Based on our work with clients globally, the following are the top basic principles for a powerful—and successful—anti-harassment strategy:
The Power of Anonymity
One of the biggest hurdles to combating sexual harassment in the workplace is getting people to report misconduct in the first place. It is critical for employees to be able to report anonymously.
A study published in February 2018 from the Society for Human Resource Management found that while 11% of employees said they were harassed in the last year, 76% of this group didn’t report it. Fear of retaliation or inaction are still a major concern.
An anonymous reporting system empowers employees to come forward with invaluable insights and information. Under the safety of anonymity, knowledge of who reported misconduct and any retaliation is greatly mitigated.
When employees know that reporting is safe and effective, they are much more likely to do so. A comprehensive anti-harassment policy is critical, but it hinges on employee insight.
Top Tip: Any whistleblower or reporting solution needs to have a true anonymous capability. Questback’s Whistleblower solution, for example, allows employees to report to anonymized online chats where they can upload photos, recordings, text messages, and other files.
Just like anonymity, easier reporting allows for more insights and an empowered workforce. The ability to report must be available anytime, anywhere, from any device.
An always-on system gives employees the opportunity to stay anonymous, report off-site at a time convenient and comfortable for them, and makes the process quick and easy. In today’s modern society where ordering a ride to the airport or scheduling an appointment can be done with the press of a button, there is no need for overly cumbersome forms that make it harder to report and track information. Or worse, mandatory in-person reporting. (In our response to the NGC Board, Sara Habberstad, General Counsel for Questback noted, “Requiring those who report misconduct to meet in-person at the employer’s site is often a deterrent and barrier to reporting.”)
If combating sexual harassment in the workplace is a true priority, the process of reporting should be as accessible and simple as possible.
Top Tip: Any whistleblower or reporting solution needs to be accessible 24/7 via a variety of methods (e.g. mobile, desktop, etc.) and extremely easy to use. For example, Questback’s Whistleblower solution supports 24/7 reporting from anywhere in the world and comes with 6 standard languages. It’s a few simple clicks to describe the situation and upload any additional information.
Auditable Reporting & Automatic Escalation
Intel is one thing, action another. In their response, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 stated the need for “…combatting the perception that reporting harassment is futile.” This is another main factor that stops many from coming forward.
Transparent and auditable reporting with automatic escalation ensures cases are investigated and actions occur. A transparent process allows employees to track the status of their report. It makes sure that the right people are notified, and that appropriate action and follow up are taken. As the Union notes, “…to ensure that reporting harassment is not futile, licensees must ensure that their own supervisors and managers follow the appropriate protocol after they have learned about the potential complaint.”
The goal of any successful sexual harassment policy needs to be change, and change requires action.
Top Tip: Auditable reporting and automatic escalation are absolutely required to ensure action and progress. Not only does Questback’s Whistleblower solution supports first-class dashboard and reporting functionality, it includes automatic escalation workflows to ensure action is taken.
With a global clientele base including one-third of the Forbes list, we’ve seen first-hand the importance of a proper whistleblower solution for creating a safe and productive workplace. We welcome the NGC Board’s implementation of a comprehensive policy to address sexual harassment and hope that they take these important components into consideration.
Anonymity, accessibility, and auditable reporting are imperatives for a reliable anti-harassment strategy. The technology and solutions exist to make this a reality, empowering and transforming both employees and organizations.