When the atmosphere in her sales department became too sexually charged and uncomfortable to bear, Shari McPeek quit and found another job.
But the Louisville, Ky., resident says that she wishes she'd known sooner that the two co-workers who drove her to leave had had a history of bad behaviour, before she was subjected to their inappropriate comments, racy company event photos and unwanted passes.
"It was just very intimidating, very awkward, and if I had been able to do a search on these people … it just would have given me a better chance to prepare myself," she says.
Work & Money
Now, a new online database is aiming to enable employees like Ms. McPeek to do just that.
Las Vegas-based website eBossWatch which allows people to anonymously rate their bosses online, has launched a National Sexual Harassment Registry that lists individuals who have been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The site's founder, Asher Adelman, calls the registry "a potentially precedent-setting, groundbreaking resource that could significantly reshape workplace dynamics." A Canadian version is expected later this year.
Mr. Adelman explains that job seekers and hiring managers alike can freely enter individuals' names into the registry's search engine to determine whether their potential bosses or employees have been involved in sexual harassment in the past.
Unlike the boss-rating function, which allows anyone to weigh in, eBossWatch itself adds entries to the registry, compiling information from existing press reports and court documents.
However, since the individuals listed are not limited to those who have been convicted in court, some fear that people who are falsely accused could get dragged into the net.
But Mr. Adelman notes that most workplace sexual-harassment cases are settled out of court. "When that's the vast majority of the cases, that renders a database or registry like this useless if we only include cases that have gone the full range till a jury reaches a decision," he says, adding, "I think people have the right to know."
Owen Mahoney, a human-rights consultant and investigator at Hamilton, Ont.-based HR Proactive, says a Canadian registry would give prospective employees a greater degree of protection and empowerment when choosing where to work.
Since most cases in Canada, too, are settled privately, "it really won't catch all the harassers by any means, not even the most egregious harassers," Mr. Mahoney says. However, "any tool like that, I think, is a great help."
Still, Vancouver consultant Stephen Hammond, who trains companies on how to prevent sexual harassment, says he has reservations about the efficacy and accuracy of such a tool.
"Unless it's linked to some decision of some kind, I just don't know how reliable the whole thing would be," he says, adding that a registry likely won't deter inappropriate behaviour.
"I tend to think the kind of people who do the kind of stuff that falls into the category of sex harassment probably aren't thinking that it's going to be a deterrent. You're not thinking rationally at the time that it's done."