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Workers fear retaliation after telling HR of harassment

It seems like every week a story breaks of a famous or powerful person facing accusations of sexual harassment on the job. Often, the defense a California company uses when such accusations are made public is that there had been no complaints against the accuser up to that point. This may be true, but often the reason is that employees are afraid of facing retaliation if they bring their complaints to the human resources department.

While HR is often portrayed as an advocate for the worker, in truth, the department's main purpose is to protect the company, and this may mean eliminating the potential source of any bad press. One woman in another state tolerated the relentless harassment of her manager, whose inappropriate advances increased in hostility as the woman rejected him. When she turned to her HR department, it refused to get involved. A few months later, the woman was called back to the HR office to be terminated.

Many HR departments provide harassment prevention training, but studies show that such training often leaves employees confused about what constitutes harassment. Additionally, some HR representatives find themselves facing a conflict of interest when their job description includes retaining highly talented employees, but those employees perpetrate the harassment. In such cases, an HR department may be likely to protect the harasser at the expense of the victim.

When an employee faces harassment, he or she has every right to expect the matter to be dealt with in a fair and swift manner. However, this does not always happen, and victims of harassment may face retaliation in addition to the humiliation of the abuse. When no satisfaction is found within the company, California workers may turn to a compassionate attorney who will advocate for their best interests.

Source: Newsweek, "How Human Resources Is Failing Women Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment", Marie Solis, Oct. 19, 2017

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