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What to Do When HR Refuses to Address or Investigate an Instance of Sexual Harassment

Published on Dec 5, 2019 at 2:22 pm in Employment Law.

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Reporting an instance of on-the-job sexual harassment to your Human Resources (HR) department doesn’t always go the way you expect. Reporting to HR is the first step you should always take, but unfortunately, they may take steps to downplay or brush off what happened or delay looking into what happened in hopes of not having to take action against your claim. If you’re in situation like this, what are your options when HR ignores your sexual harassment claim? Let’s take a look at some other options you may have.

What Else Can You Do?

Since your HR Department is not acting on your side, your next best option is to take the matter into your own hands with the help of a legal team. But there are some things you should know before moving forward with a lawsuit. Here’s what to do when HR refuses to address an instance of sexual harassment:

  • Document everything. Any emails, IMs, or text messages between your assailant or company and you should be saved and printed out. If HR gives you a letter stating why they aren’t pursuing action, you should print that, too. That way, you have documentation of any correspondence, good or bad. This will help your case later because it could help prove your sexual assault or the company’s negligence after being informed of the actions.
  • Know your rights and the law. Do your research on your workplace’s policies so that you can meticulously follow the process of reporting and use their language. If they do nothing, then you can look into state and federal laws about workplace harassment. In line with federal law, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that workplace sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination. Knowing your rights and the law can help validate you and outline your next steps.
  • Understand that retaliation is illegal. If the company retaliates against you for reporting, they are acting illegally. 75% of victims of workplace sexual harassment claim they faced retaliation from their workplace, as reported in a study by the S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Any retaliation should be documented and reported to someone outside the company.
  • Seek help outside the office. If HR is neglecting your case, there are other people you can reach out to for help. You can file a complaint with the EEOC or file a civil case against the company with an employment lawyer outside of the company.
  • Look for a new job. Nobody wants to stay at a job where they feel disrespected by management. If you feel invalidated by HR’s reluctance to do anything about your sexual harassment, you should look for a new job. Financially, it’s best to set up a new job before leaving your current one, but if you feel threatened, you should leave as soon as possible.

People Who Can Help

It’s important to report sexual harassment in the workplace to HR if you feel comfortable doing so– even if you feel they may not take action. According to that same study by the EEOC, up to 94% of sexual harassment in the workplace goes unreported. Even if HR ignores your complaint, you still need to report it there first before contacting outside help.

If you’ve reported your harassment to HR and nothing has been done, there are other people you can reach out to. Other than the people listed above, you can also go to the human rights commissions of Arkansas, or in more serious cases where you feel physically threatened, you should contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration. No matter who you reach out to, you should always contact a lawyer, so you have someone on your side.

If you’ve been sexually harassed by a coworker and HR refuses to investigate, you probably feel invalidated and lost. It’s unfair that your employer is choosing to protect the assaulter rather than get justice for you, the victim. A lawyer from McMath Woods P.A. can be on your side from the moment you reach out. Contact us today so we can fight for you and get you the justice you deserve.

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