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Are Human Resources Departments Useless, Or Actively Harmful?

Many people who find themselves the victim of sexual harassment or workplace discrimination are reluctant to report it to human resources. HR departments are, ostensibly, the right place to direct complaints about mistreatment. In reality, many of these departments work to protect executives from the consequences of their actions. Reporting a complaint to HR often leads nowhere. If action is taken, it's as likely to lead to retaliation against the victim as it is action against the perpetrator.

Understand HR priorities

Human resources departments work for the betterment of the company. Whether the HR department is good, bad or indifferent is likely a function of executive leadership. If that leadership engages in harassing or abusive behavior, HR has no power and likely no motivation to solve the problem. If you are being abused, harassed or otherwise mistreated at work, you cannot count on HR to support you.

Building an employment law case

New Jersey and federal law protects employees from sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse based on certain characteristics. Employees looking to assert their rights should not bank on the support of Human Resources. To build a case, you should speak to an attorneys to discuss your situation.

HR departments do not owe you confidentiality. They can, and likely will, report your complaint to the person guilty of harassing you. Reports to HR can be ignored, misconstrued or even used to paint a target on your back as a "troublemaker." While it would be wonderful if Human Resources existed to protect the rights of employees, that is simply not the case.

If you have any concerns about reporting an incident to HR, you should speak to an employment lawyer first. You have rights and those rights should be protected. You just can't count on Human Resources to be on your side when you identify your abuser.

Source: The New York Times, “Sexual Harassment Cases Show the Ineffectiveness of Going to H.R.,” by Noam Scheiber and Julie Creswell, 12 December 2017

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