Small Business Owners Put the "Human" Back in Human Resources

sexual harassment small business me too movement

The “Me Too” movement is a wake up call for small business owners to ensure a safe and productive work environment.


Human Resources: “The division of a company that is focused on activities relating to employees…. Formerly called personnel.”  (Business Dictionary).

I recently watched one of my favorite movies from the 1980s--“Working Girl”-- with a great sound track by Carly Simon and casting by Juliet Taylor. Melanie Griffith, a smart and ambitious secretary with big hair from Staten Island, outsmarts Sigourney Weaver, dumps Alec Baldwin and ends up with Harrison Ford and a corner office.

Does it get better than that?

Having not watched this movie for almost 30 years, I was a bit unnerved to be reminded that Melanie (“Tess”) was sexually harassed by three male bosses in the first 8 minutes of the movie.

Actually, in the first 90 seconds, she was in the men’s room to deliver a phone message to her boss and was told to hand him a roll of toilet paper as he sat in the stall.  She ended up storming out of the office after the second male boss “pimps her out” to Bob in Arbitrage who ends up physically assaulting her in a cab.

Tess sheepishly goes to Human Resources where Olympia Dukakis (they don’t dignify Olympia with a name other than “personnel director”) sadly shakes her head and says: “Oh, Tess, Tess, Tess, … This is the last time I can help you. Four strikes and you’re out.”


The movie, although quite funny with a great ending, unfortunately, rather accurately portrays what it was like to work in a man’s world in the 80s and early 90s. There was little to no support when faced with a situation involving harassment in the workplace.

Like Tess, the choice was to grin and bear it, or quit and find a new job.

Companies were compelled to make some changes throughout the 90s

True, companies were compelled to make some changes throughout the 90s as a result of sexual harassment lawsuits (sexual harassment cases reportedly climbed following Anita Hill’s testimony against the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas at his confirmation hearing), but then came a setback during the recession, in or around 2008, as employers implemented significant cost cutting measures. 

If Human Resources existed, it was the first to go. Virtual HR “companies” arose, promising “quality” human resources services at low cost.

Next page- HR partners, One answer and the Result


About the author

Carol Goodman

Carol Goodman, Esq. is a member of the law firm Herrick Feinstein LLP, and Co-Chair of the firm’s litigation department. Ms. Goodman focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation and employment law for public and private companies, domestic and international financial institutions, and real estate companies.Among her many areas of activity, Ms. Goodman helps clients manage risk by advising on hiring, firing and workforce restructuring, severance agreements, exit incentive plans, issues relating to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and matters involving the Family Leave Act and disability leave. She also has broad experience creating training programs, and developing employment policies, procedures and programs aimed at reducing the risk of litigation.She has been acknowledged by Thomson Reuters as a “Super Lawyer” in each of its Super Lawyer publications from 2013-2017, and is listed as an AV, top rated, lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell, which awards such ratings for professional excellence.