Experiencing any kind of mistreatment at work can make one feel unsafe and devalued, and sexual harassment is no exception. Your company is legally obligated to prevent sexual harassment against employees and take steps to protect you from future abuse should you become a victim.
Your company may even have its own policies that go beyond the law, outlining how and to whom to report instances of sexual harasssment and what happens as a result. Despite laws and policies, however, an everyday reality for many people who experience sexual harassment at work is not being sure who they can turn to for help. Your company policy might direct you to report the issue to a supervisor or human resources (HR), but are the people who are tasked with managing conflict at work really on your side?
When It’s in the Company’s Best Interest
Because companies and their HR departments are made up of people with their own values and notions of justice thrown in to mix, it’s hard to paint all them all in a single shade of grey. That said, it would be fair to say that your company’s HR department has a vested interest in protecting the company. That means HR’s willingness to stick up for you when you report sexual harassment could come down to how well you could substantiate your claim in a lawsuit against the company.
It might sound a little cynical – especially for people with careers in HR who do want to help victims – but whether or not HR is on your side depends on the reality of whether it’s in the company’s best interest to be.
To compound matters, how seriously HR responds to sexual harassment reports can vary from company to company despite laws protecting employees. Also, as may be the case for smaller businesses, “HR” might not exist beyond a company owner or manager who wears that hat among many others – which can make reporting sexual harassment even more problematic if this person is the abuser or directly subordinate to them in another capacity.
That said, many companies have robust HR practices and policies that can react quickly to investigate reports and deliver solutions based upon their findings. The trouble with even this, however, is that offending employees may not be immediately removed from the workplace and left to target their victim in other ways or find a new individual to harass.
A similar result can occur when an HR investigation fails to corroborate a victim’s claims, leaving management free to drop the issue without taking action. In an even worse scenario, reporting to HR can cause a company to unlawfully target the victim for other kinds of unlawful mistreatment like discrimination or retaliation.
An Employment Lawyer Is Always on Your Side
Because of HR’s interest in protecting a company, it has an inherently dubious quality to it when it comes to handling sexual misconduct at work. If your company believes your claim could end up in costly litigation, HR might be more than willing to bend over backwards to help. If your claims are inconvenient for the company, they may be ignored or even result in other forms of mistreatment.
Whenever you experience sexual harassment at work, however, an employment law attorney is always on your side. At Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, we’ve advocated for employees who’ve experienced many kinds of mistreatment at work, sexual harassment chief among them. Whenever you experience something illegal happening to you at work, you can turn to our attorneys to help you work through your claim and get the best possible result.
Turning to an attorney first doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also follow your company’s policies for reporting sexual harassment. The best course of action, though, is to take advantage of a free consultation with our attorneys to discuss your specific situation and learn about which steps you should take next.
For more information about how Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can help, reach out to us online or call (619) 468-5222.