Facing the mounting emotional and psychological toll it had taken on her, Jana Morrin started keeping track of workplace harassment she was enduring in her office job.
By the time the Eau Claire woman finally had enough and decided to quit, she’d accumulated 30 pages of her accounts of mistreatment along with computer screenshots of abusive messages to go along with them.
The negative experience inspired the 2004 UW-Eau Claire graduate to develop a tool to help those who are experienced what she had, as well as give companies a hint if there’s a problem in their workplace’s culture.
“Having experienced workplace harassment myself, it showed me the lack of resources available,” Morrin said.
Alongside Zach Halmstad, co-founder of software company Jamf, Morrin developed Speakfully, a website that launched May 13.
“It’s a support and documentation platform that helps individuals experiencing mistreatment at work,” she explained.
Free to individuals, the website — Speakfully.com — allows workers to establish secure accounts where they can document workplace incidents and also view articles and videos to offer them support and guidance.
For each incident, the website prompts employees to document the time, place and names of those involved in the mistreatment. The program also asks questions about how the incident made the employee feel or impacted his or her daily routine.
Supporting evidence including copies of emails and screenshots of text messages can be included in the reports as well. Only the employee can see the reports, unless they decide to submit them to their company’s human resources department or management.
Speakfully also is intended to help users who are unsure if what they’re experiencing is harassment or acceptable workplace behavior.
“It is this gray area a lot of times and it is really hard to navigate that,” Morrin said.
In addition to articles and videos showing the nuances of harassment, questions users are asked when they file a report help workers get an objective view of incidents they experienced.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
That behavior becomes illegal when it is so severe and pervasive that the work environment becomes hostile, abusive or intimidating.
When asked what a person should do when they experience workplace harassment, a local human resources expert said making detailed reports is important.
Katie Walk, a human resources instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College, advises that people make accurate detailed records of what happened, including the time, date, place of the location, as well as those involved.
The information would become vital should the employee take the issue to human resources, if they can’t solve it by speaking with the co-worker, customer or client whose behavior has been causing problems.
“In an ideal scenario, employees should directly inform another employee if his/her behavior is unwelcome and ask them to stop,” Walk wrote in an email to the Leader-Telegram.
In some cases, employees may be unaware their actions are unwelcome, she added.
“If the situation does not resolve itself, involve HR or management as soon as possible,” Walk said.
In a few months, Speakfully intends to launch an early version of its service that businesses can subscribe to. Enterprises that sign up for Speakfully will not see the names or files of their employees, unless those people opt to submit their reports to human resources. But businesses will get data based on questions employees who make reports are asked, which will help companies spot brewing workplace issues and address them before they become worse.
By subscribing to Speakfully, Morrin said businesses can show they care for employees and build more trust between them and management.
“Just offering the tool itself will organically help fill that gap as well,” she said.
More companies are willing to look at how they deal with reports of mistreatment, Morrin said. Part of that is in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements where women have been more openly speaking about workplace harassment.
Currently available only as a website, there are plans to launch a Speakfully app in coming months as well.
Speakfully’s headquarters is at CoLab, a co-working space that opened this spring in downtown Eau Claire.