It seems that every day the news brings stories of yet another person accused of sexual misconduct or harassment in the workplace. Many of the most recent accusations have involved high-powered or highly visible men, and the fallout has been remarkable. However, the question remains for many victims of workplace sexual harassment in California and across the country — what should they do if they experience such treatment on the job? For some, litigation may be the best option.
For many, one of the first steps is to bring the allegations to the employer’s human resource department. However, in many situations that receive media attention, it seems that the HR department was already aware of the treatment but failed to adequately respond to the allegation. One former human resources professional describes HR departments as having an inherent conflict, as the desire to protect the company that pays the employees’ salaries conflicts with the needs of victimized employees.
There are other options that could help remove the inherent bias an HR employee may experience. For example, the company could completely outsource its HR department to an independent third party. Another option is a hybrid between keeping HR in-house and completely outsourcing it; it involves bringing in an independent counsel to act as an advocate for the employee.
Unfortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims that only a fraction of people who are sexually harassed in the workplace report the abuse. Additionally, independent contractors are not protected under Title VII — the provision of the law that protects workers from such treatment — and often have no HR department to turn to. Fortunately, those who feel their complaints are ignored by their company or have few options for recourse can seek advice from an attorney with experience with such cases. Litigation could ultimately be the pathway that prevents others in California and nationally from being similarly treated in the future.
Source: npr.org, “When It Comes To Sexual Harassment Claims, Whose Side Is Human Resources On?” Tovia Smith, Nov. 15, 2017