The #MeToo Movement and Restorative Justice: An HR Approach

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The #MeToo movement continues to change the American workplace culture, and HR professionals are watching every change closely.

As a community, the work of Human Resources has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight. Its seemingly separate culture of quietly conducting affairs from afar to impact the larger story of their companies is no longer an unseen practice. HR professionals are now up front and center, and rightfully so. The HR Community will be, as it should be, leading the way forward.

But it’s not a way forward just for victims of workplace sexual misconduct. It also has to be a way forward for offenders. That may be a controversial statement, but it is true. For victims to truly receive justice from those who wronged them, offenders should be a part of the process.

It’s called restorative justice.

Admittedly, this is a new concept to me. I came in contact with it less than 24 hours ago. While it is new to me, it's not a new concept to everyone else. It’s been around for some time, and was even mentioned at the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony.

Laura Dern won a Golden Globe for her performance as ‘Renata Klein’ in HBO’s Big Little Lies.

Restorative Justice Defined

The Centre for Justice and Reconciliation says restorative justice…

“repairs the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.”

There are three concepts at the center of restorative justice. Restorative Practices International (RPI) says those include:

  • That when crime (or wrongdoing) occurs, the focus is on the harm that has been done to people and relationships
  • When harm has been done, it creates obligations and liabilities
  • The way forward involves wrongdoers, victims and the community in efforts to heal the harm and put things right (adapted from Zehr and Mika, 1997)

To further define restorative justice, RPI says it is characterized by four key values:

  • Encounter: creating opportunities for victims, offenders (wrongdoers), their families and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime (incident) and its impact on them
  • Amends: expecting wrongdoers to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  • Reintegration: seeking to restore victims and offenders to wholeness, to become contributing members of society
  • Inclusion: providing opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime or incident to participate in its resolution (adapted from RJ Online)

While this article is structured toward the crimes of sexual misconduct and the like, it is feasible the restorative justice concept can be applicable to other situations.

conflict wrecking ball style

Restorative HR in Practice

Mayvin is a leadership and organization development consultancy located in the South East of the United Kingdom.

In their report entitled Restorative HR Practice: A Toolkit, Mayvin discusses a broad list of situations in which RHR would apply. Some of those include:

  • Conflicts, disputes, and disciplinary action between staff members and employees
  • Assault and violent situations in frontline services
  • Domestic abuse
  • Employee relations

So, how do you put this concept into practice? Mayvin says RHR is different for everyone. It’s important for companies and organizations to define what this means for their teams, as each one is unique and requires a custom approach.

That said, Mayvin has offered a framework by which to begin the practice.

First, figure out what happened. Everyone has a different perspective on the event. It’s important to let those individuals share that with everyone else.

Secondly, focus on the thoughts and feelings surrounding the event. Those involved should be offered a chance to express what they were thinking and feeling at the time or what they are thinking or feeling about the event after the fact.

Thirdly, turn to the impact and what harm was caused by the event. The harm needs to be repaired. Everyone involved should have an opportunity to talk about it and for those responsible, they should be given the opportunity to take responsibility and accountability.

Fourthly, everyone needs to discuss what they need to repair the problem or solve it. This way they can move on.

And finally, the way forward. Everyone should know what they need to move forward, what support they need to accomplish the goal, and how to respond differently to similar situations in the future.

At the end of the day, the restorative HR practice is, “focused on developing an HR staff so that they can help resolve issues more quickly and effectively than through a formal route.” Mayvin is also quick to point out RHR is not always the right course of action.

two hands of people reaching out to help

In their report, Mayvin specifically outlines ways RHR is beneficial to practioners.

Those include a reduction in workload and paperwork, managers and employees feel better about themselves, conflicts, disputes, and disciplinary actions are dealt with before escalating to a more formal and costly process.

In other words, “Confront the difficult whilst it is still easy.” That’s a quote from the 2,500 year old Chinese book of changes Tao Te Ching.

For more information about these concepts, visit: