Sexual Harassment Complaints & HR’s Role
When employees make sexual harassment complaints, they look to Human Resources (HR) for answers. HR is supposed to foster a respectful and safe workplace. Almost 94% of American companies have a sexual harassment policy, however, employees are still being harassed. This means that problem is bigger than we imagine. Sexual harassment is becoming part of the working culture, and many times HR ignores the problem.
About Sexual Harassment
Federal law prohibits sexual harassment through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This applies to employers that have 15 or more employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to be physically touching. In fact, it can be any number of unwelcome sexual advances like indirect or direct threats for sexual activity, sexist jokes, displaying sexually illicit materials or unwanted touch.
HR & Sexual Harassment Complaints
There is a lack of trust between victims of sexual harassment and the HR department. A 2016 study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that of all the options available to workers experiencing harassment the least common response was to take formal action. Many suspect it is since the HR department is responsible for fielding employee complaints still work for the same company that faces potential liability. The department is to protect the company’s interest, not the employee. This creates a conflict of interest. This is why many HR officers neglect to conduct investigations and are more inclined to suppress allegations.
Many are hardworking and kind individuals wanting to respond to harassment complaints. However, the company places limits on their own authority. Even if a human resources official recommends disciplinary action or being fired, he or she can’t independently perform it. An executive can ignore a recommendation. Then, the HR employee can either let it go or leave the company.
An example of an executive retaliation against an HR’s disciplinary action recommendation to sexual harassment complaints was when the founder would not pursue, the official anonymously tipped off the EEOC. Then, the executive vowed to “go after” the responsible party. Two years later, the founder discovered who altered the agency and filed a police report stating the HR official stole $2.000. The charges were unfounded, and the official won compensation as part of a settlement with the company.
This is just one story of the hundreds describing those who come forward or attempt to help left feeling ostracized and eventually pushed to quit.
File a Claim Instead
Instead of hoping the HR department does the right thing, file a claim instead. Sexual harassment victims can pursue a Title VII claim by filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC within 300 calendar days of the date the harassment occurred. The 300 days is calculated to include weekend and holidays. Unfortunately, the EEOC won’t extend the deadline. This is why it is important that even if your employer is already investigating your complaint to reach out to an attorney.
Victims of sexual harassment can also pursue their claims in federal or state court, where another set of deadlines applies depending on whether you’re pursuing your claim under federal or state law.
In order to bring a lawsuit for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you must first file a charge with the EEOC. As long as the statute of limitation is still available, the EEOC will investigate your claim. The agency will also attempt to mediate a resolution in some instances. Then, they will issue a Notice of Right to Sue. There are only 90 days after receiving this notification that you must file.
Don’t Wait Before Getting Help
Even if one deadline has passed, it may be possible to file through other agencies. This is why it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Don’t rely on the human resources department to have your best interest at heart. They are liable to the company they work for. We are liable to help you. We offer free initial consultations for sexual harassment claims. Also, we bill on a contingent fee basis, so you won’t have to pay us unless we win or settle your case. Your attorney will be able to provide further guidance, help you file a claim with the EEOC, and help you build a case that will put an end to what you have experienced.