Employees are typically advised to take their complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace to their human resources (HR) department. However, women often report being ignored or retaliated against for doing so. This dismissive and retaliatory behavior often dissuades other employees from taking formal action and may cause HR officers to mistakenly believe that their workplace is harassment-free. Experts highlight two main factors that are contributing to this problem.
Conflict of Interest
HR professionals are generally staffed by the company and are tasked with protecting the company’s interests. Some officers may even be at risk of losing their jobs if they conduct investigations into employees the company considers particularly valuable. In a recent public scandal that helped to kickstart the #MeToo movement, a former Uber employee alleged that when she reported a co-worker’s inappropriate behavior, he was merely given a warning because he was a “high performer”.
HR representatives will therefore often choose to ignore employee complaints of sexual harassment to protect the company’s leaders. Even when HR officials want to respond more aggressively to complaints or more compassionately to victims of sexual harassment, their actions may be restricted by their superiors. HR officials must be careful what they say in case a lawsuit is later filed and their words are used as evidence in court. If the company’s executives fail to take action after an HR official reports the harassment and issues recommendations regarding how to stop it, there is little else they can do other than leave the company.
Fear of Retaliation
The least common course of action taken by employees who experience harassment is to formally report the instance, according to a 2016 study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Victims are more likely to choose another option when dealing with workplace harassment, such as avoiding the harasser or talking to family members. This is often because employees fear that HR managers will join forces with the company to retaliate against them.
Despite being illegal, many employers do retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes a negative action against an employee, such as demotion, discipline, salary reduction, or firing, because the employee exercised a legal right. Retaliation is the most frequently alleged basis of termination in the federal sector since 2008, comprising almost half of the complaints received by the EEOC each year.
Both federal and state laws prohibit workplace sexual harassment. You are entitled to a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment and you are entitled to file complaints without being retaliated against by your employer. Employers should not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and must be committed to creating a harassment-free workplace in order to avoid legal liability.
Red Bank Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Provide Compassionate Guidance to Victims of Workplace Harassment
If you experienced harassment at work, an experienced Red Bank sexual harassment lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. can help protect your rights and assist you in pursuing legal recourse. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including those Red Bank, Middletown, Cherry Hill and Marlton. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation.