In November 2018, when employees at tech giant Google (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report staged their infamous walkout over the company's handling of sexual harassment cases, Google was at a crossroads trying to find answers on ways to improve the process for how employees raised and reported about concerns and incidents related to workplace misconduct.
That's when former Google Chief Compliance Officer Andy Hinton first heard of an app called #NotMe and he was both "intrigued" and "terrified." Hinton today is an advisor and a member on the board at #NotMe.
Founded in September 2018, #NotMe, was created by lawyer turned entrepreneur Ariel Weindling after the #MeToo movement led to a global reckoning about the sexual pressures many women encounter on the job place.
Companies like Google among many others spanning multiple sectors are hesitant to listen to Weindling's pitch because his startup or more specifically the app puts employees at the front and center of this conversation, giving them access to report an incident (anonymously or otherwise), through a questionnaire in under three minutes.
The app also has a chat feature that allows the victim to talk to Weindling's team of experts including psychologists and lawyers.
In Weindling's own words, #NotMe is the misconduct reporting platform designed -- from the ground up -- to support employees in raising concerns.
"I realized that the way companies and employees were dealing with workplace misconduct was very inefficient and was only benefitting lawyers, whether they were representing the companies or the employees," he explained.
"There is this assumption from lawyers and companies that employees are out there to sue them. That's not true. People just want to be treated with respect and dignity. And they frankly, don't want to deal with bullshit in the workplace," Weindling said candidly.
Over the past few years, the company has collected data which shows that people who report on the app generally just want the behavior to stop, seek an apology and want to be safe.
The Me In #NotMe
The “Me” in NotMe is very important for Weindling. "Every story and every experience matters when it comes to speaking up," he said.
He coined the name #NotMe out of respect for the women who spoke up during the #MeToo movement. "I thought we needed to get to a better outcome, a solution to #MeToo," said Weindling, a father of three and his youngest is a 12-year-old girl.
"I don't want her to experience a #MeToo moment when she enters the workforce because nothing had changed by then. Our goal is and should be no more #MeToos… no more victims of misconduct. People should be able to safely and easily speak up and say #NotMe to misconduct in their workplaces," added Weindling.
Weindling knew and realized (and accepted) that the name might be polarizing to some and he was completely fine with that.
The free-to-use app available on Apple Store and Google Play is a tool meant to address the unresolved problems of employees that are unable to report workplace misconduct when experiencing or witnessing it for fear of retribution.
"The whole idea is to empower people to speak up and to let them know they are not alone when they face an issue in the workplace," he said.
#NotMe is an employee-first open platform that allows anyone to report anonymously or otherwise by filling out a detailed questionnaire. The app has an AI [artificial intelligence] algorithm that scores reports based on their severity and pervasiveness. It helps us to prioritize issues.
The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same
In 2019, two years into the MeToo movement, the stats from an article in the Harvard Business Review, showed that not much had really changed on the ground. Sixty-three percent of women reported having been harassed, with 33% experiencing it more than once.
"A woman’s age, the supervisor’s gender, whether the woman filled a blue-collar or a white-collar role, and whether she was married had no bearing on the likelihood that she had been harassed. Just 20% of women who had been harassed reported the episode; among those who didn’t, the chief deterrents were fear of negative consequences and apprehension that they would be labeled troublemakers," according to the research study cited above.
Most recently, video game maker Activision Blizzard (ATVI) - Get Activision Blizzard, Inc. Report known for its Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush franchises was caught in this firestorm. Reportedly Activision Chief Executive Booby Kotick had known about the sexual harassment at the company for years and did nothing about it.
The app #NotMe allows the victim or whoever is reporting the incident to capture everything from evidence to documents on to the app, to avoid such instances.
"It doesn't go from zero to 60 overnight, it always starts with a bad joke or a guy trying to flirt with someone. And then escalates. So, there is always a way to course correct, if companies can find out about the issues earlier. And that's what we're trying to do," said Sarah Weindling, co-founder of the app and also Ariel's wife.
Sarah has worked in financial services for over 20 years as equities analyst, credit analyst, and most recently at brokerage firm Wells Fargo as a financial advisor and PIM portfolio manager.
The company also has a feature for employers and companies to become a member of #NotMe. The startup offers organizations access to insights needed to take action and create an accountable, safe, and thriving culture — for everyone.
So far, Weindling's efforts to democratize misconduct reporting have reached over 100 clients, primarily in the food and beverage industry including a franchisee of Dunkin Donuts.
But the team claims it also received reports against companies like Amazon (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report and Uber (UBER) - Get Uber Technologies, Inc. Report among others. TheStreet could not verify this independently.
The Weindlings have tried to make #NotMe into a full compliance tool. The app covers a gamut of issues from privacy, conflict of interest, bribery and corruption as well.