An App for That

Beth Schroeder’s new tech helps employees alert management to problems

Published in 2024 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine

By David Levine on January 9, 2024

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For decades, Beth Schroeder heard all the reasons employees fail to sound the alarm over problematic company matters—fear of reprisal, inability to reach HR—and she often wondered why there wasn’t a safe, simple way employees could contact HR or another corporate officer.

Something like an app.

“I thought about this for years,” says Schroeder, a partner at Raines Feldman Littrell in LA, who reps medium- and small-sized companies over issues like harassment, discrimination, and wage-and-hour compliance. “I talked to people about it. But I wasn’t an app developer.”

Then in 2016, she told her idea to Jeremy Light, an acquaintance in the tech industry. “He said, ‘I have ideas on how to get funding for that.’ We grabbed a drink in December 2016 and decided to go ahead with it.”

Called kendr, the app launched in 2017. The name comes from the Hindi word for center. “We see ourselves being the community center, bringing people together,” Schroeder says.

Schroeder was involved in the day-to-day development of the app, which was beta-tested by focus groups made up of employment and privacy lawyers, human resources consultants and risk managers—as well as clients and friends. “When we do demos for prospective clients, especially in-house counsel,” Schroeder says, “they can very much tell that an attorney was involved in the development process and was sensitive to issues regarding the protection of attorney-client privilege, preserving evidence for potential use in litigation, privacy—issues that many hotlines and communication platforms never consider.”

How does it work? Employers pay a fee scaled to the company’s size to license the app: $50 a month for companies with fewer than 100 employees, and up from there. Then employees are encouraged to download the app for free and register with a unique employer code. Reports can be submitted anonymously. The app also supports photos, videos and other documentation, and offers 15 languages besides English, including Spanish, Chinese and Korean, with more in development.

Every report receives an automatic reply, either default or customized, so employees know that someone has received their communication.

Schroeder initially offered the app to her clients, many in the restaurant business, and grew it by word of mouth. “It was a little ahead of its time in 2017,” she says. COVID-19 slowed things down, particularly in the restaurant industry, but it also helped push the corporate world further ahead technology-wise. “Now,” she says, “there is more interest, more traction, as people are less tech resistant.”

She currently has 25 to 30 clients, and some big-name companies have nibbled but not yet bitten. “Many are still locked into existing phone hotlines,” she says.

But she likes her success stories. One of her app clients got a report of harassment at one of its restaurants. “She investigated,” says Schroeder, “and found several employees too afraid to speak out about one of their main managers. He had been harassing many people, and they were able to terminate the person without litigation.” Another report claimed an assistant manager was shaving time to reduce overtime costs. “You can have huge lawsuits over that,” she says. “You want to handle these things in-house.”

She has no concerns that this kind of preemptive accountability will bite into her litigation practice. “I am in this work to keep my clients running smoothly,” she says. “I’m not here to litigate. … I would love to spend the rest of my career moving the needle in the right direction, keeping people on the straight and narrow. That keeps me plenty busy.”

The biggest hurdle, she says, has been convincing employees that the app is truly anonymous. “Many are still skeptical and always will be,” she says. “They still believe their employers have some sort of way of knowing who is behind it, even though we tell them that even we cannot find out.” She also knows many employees don’t trust upper management. “They don’t think people at the top care,” she says. “But that is not the case with my clients. They really do care and want to be the best they can be for their employees. That’s why the app was invented.”

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