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Why don't sexual harassment victims go to human resources?

As we noted in a recent post, sexual harassment in the workplace has been getting a considerable amount of media attention because of the accusations against key figures with the Fox News Channel. Some common themes heard from a number of the plaintiffs are that they didn't go to the company's human resources (HR) department, and that they believed HR wouldn't have helped them if they had reported harassment to them.

An attorney representing former anchor Gretchen Carlson gave her blunt opinion: "HR is not your friend. HR will not help you." One of the most famous sexual harassment accusers of all time, Anita Hill, echoed the view that victims may not get help from HR. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, she wrote, "There are still companies that pay lip service to human-resources departments, while quietly allowing women to be vilified when they come forward."

However, HR departments are supposed to help employees who have been sexually harassed. An official with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notes, "A good HR office is the linchpin for an employer's effective system for learning about harassment and then responding quickly and effectively." Every company should have a written policy regarding sexual harassment that its HR department enforces.

So where is the breakdown? According to the EEOC official, one of the main problems is that companies hesitate to punish those who are vital to the company's success, whether it's an executive or simply a top performer. Once employees see that these people can get away with such behavior, they no longer trust those within the company -- even those charged with protecting their rights in the workplace -- to take action on a sexual harassment complaint.

If you have taken your claim of sexual harassment to the proper people within your company and they have not taken the appropriate action or if you have suffered retribution as a result of your claim, it's wise to seek legal guidance.

Source: CNN Money, "Here's how HR is supposed to handle sexual harassment," Julia Horowitz, accessed May 16, 2017

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