Why Should I Bother to Go to HR About Sexual Harassment?

Q:  After reading about all of the sexual harassment by celebrities in the news  and learning that their company’s management and HR departments were aware of the problem and did nothing, why should anyone bother to go to HR?
A:  I have to agree with you that HR is getting a black eye from these stories.  I’ve seen many comments bad-mouthing HR for not doing more.
So I feel I should offer some clarifying points as a defense of my HR peeps.
The kinds of stories we’ve see in the news are simply in a different league altogether.  At the highest levels of industry and government, a human resources department does not have much power or influence.  HR is simply part of the chain of command reporting to the top.   In those situations big-name lawyers and PR firms get involved right away and – If a deal needs to be cut, or someone needs to be pushed out – human resources is only marginally involved, if at all.
A lot of what’s on the news took place outside work in a social setting.  Our current laws protect us from  harassment (sexual, racial, religious, etc) in the workplace.  Not at the nightclub, not at the gym or at a restaurant or on the street.  But in the workplace.
A lot of what’s on the news is beyond sexual harassment (and outside HR “jurisdiction”) and crosses into criminality.  Unfortunately , entertainment  and industry celebrities (and politicians) can break laws and abuse power and get away with things that would put the average Joe in jail.  HR again, is not in this picture.
But, for the rest of us mortals who live and work in the real world, HR can be our strongest ally. And I certainly  think it’s worth it “to go to HR” when something is not right.
Sexual harassment complaints are taken very seriously by HR because, by law, companies are required to investigate any and all complaints.
Be aware, HR will try to be discreet, and unless you were directly affected by the harassment you may or may not even find out what actions were taken.  But Just because you don’t know the outcome, doesn’t mean the situation was not addressed.
Look, I know HR is an easy scapegoat, but in everyday work life, they are there to make sure the rules are applied fairly.  Give them a chance to help.
Originally published on HR Box blog.
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