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Human Resources Is Failing Women In the Workplace

The recent rise in the amount of complaints from women about mistreatment in the workplace has also included numerous accounts of women who have been ignored, stymied, or retaliated against by their company’s human resources units. Such accounts reveal that the mechanism that is supposed to protect the rights of employees is actually a part of the problem, not the solution.

Human resources departments play a vital and complicated role in workplace harassment cases. One of the biggest issues facing human resources departments is that women are often hesitant to approach their representatives. Because of this hesitance, human resources departments often cite a lack of complaints as evidence of a workplace with a progressive and respectful company culture.

A study from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was conducted in 2016, revealed that out of all the available options for workers who have been harassed, the least common response for both men and women was to enact a formal action.

Experts suggest that there are several factors that contribute to this pattern of behavior. Although human resources are responsible for overseeing employee complaints, their role is inherently conflicted between the company that they work for and the employees they are supposed to protect. When a human resource officer is asked investigate allegations made against a high ranking executive, it can put their career in jeopardy. Such a situation can make the H.R. representative inclined to suppress or hide harassment allegations instead of pursuing an investigation.

According to Cynthia Calvert, a discrimination lawyer and senior adviser to the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco, “H.R.’s client is the company, which means that H.R. is supposed to protect the company’s interests.”

Many times, employees are afraid that human resources will help the company retaliate against the accuser. Although many human resources officials would prefer to respond more vigorously to harassment complaints, the fact that they work for the company places substantial limits on their abilities to fully pursue allegations. To make matters worse, H.R. representatives lack the independent authority to discipline or fire top ranking employees.

H.R. officials have only one option if their request to a top executive to end discrimination or harassment is not carried out: They can leave the company. However, leaving the company isn’t always enough to prevent an H.R official from experiencing the wrath of a top executive.

Until this system of accountability changes, the women who come forward with complaints about harassment will continue to be ostracized and made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace.

To learn more about workplace harassment, read this article from the New York Times:

Have you experienced unwanted harassment at your job? Contact our Connecticut employment discrimination attorney to talk about your case today.