Fisher Taubenfeld LLP

Why sexual harassment investigations may be unsatisfactory

When employees in New York and throughout the country report sexual harassment in the workplace to their human resources department, they may be dissatisfied with the outcome. They might go weeks without hearing anything further, and nothing may happen to the perpetrator. They might feel they are facing retaliation. This is true even though awareness of sexual harassment at work is on the rise. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment claims went up more than 13% in 2018.

There are a number of reasons HR may fail to adequately address the issue. For example, one HR manager says that although she investigated a harassment claim, found it valid, and reported it to people higher up, they felt it would be easier to recruit lower-level employees than replace the higher-level employee who was reported. Ideally, the HR department would stay in regular communication with the employee, but this does not always happen. There should be a timeline for the investigation, and HR should demonstrate empathy toward the employee.

Some employees may want to speak to a supervisor instead of HR if that person is more likely to be sympathetic. An employee who faces retaliation at work after reporting sexual harassment can file a report with the EEOC. An attorney may help with this process.

Even if the company has clear policies in place for dealing with sexual harassment, an employee might want to consult an attorney before addressing the problem through workplace channels. This can help ensure that employees understand their rights and what they might expect as well as what constitutes a violation of the law on the employer's part. If the workplace takes retaliatory action against the employee or the investigation is unsatisfactory, the attorney may be able to help. This could involve filing a lawsuit.

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