When It Comes To Sexual Harassment Claims, Whose Side Is Human Resources On? : NPR

Recent news stories suggest some human resource departments failed to adequately respond to sexual harassment issues.

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seb_ra/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Recent news stories suggest some human resource departments failed to adequately respond to sexual harassment issues.

seb_ra/Getty Images/iStockphoto

As more executives accused of sexual harassment are being ousted from companies around the nation, including NPR, many are rethinking whether human resources departments are willing or able to handle the job of fielding and investigating complaints. Many have grown skeptical, after recent news stories suggesting some HR departments knew of issues, but failed to adequately respond. Many others have lost faith in HR through experiences of their own.

Sophia Dean says she was 25 years old, working a dream job as a line cook in a fancy New York city restaurant, when a co-worker started harassing her, even trapping her in the walk-in refrigerator.

“He would corner me, and like grab my arm, and he was just insisting over and over again that that he was in love with me,” she recalls.

Sophia Dean in 2015. After taking sexual harassment claims to human resources at two different places, she said she believes the departments work “for the company, rather than for the employees.”

Courtesy Stephan Ilnyckyj


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Courtesy Stephan Ilnyckyj

Dean was reluctant to report it to her human resources department, for fear that they’d see her as a threat to the company, rather than him as a threat to her.

“I was worried that they’d rather move someone away who’s whistleblowing, [to avoid] scandal,” she says. “So I was worried I would be the one punished.”

Eventually, the harassment got so bad, she did go to her HR department, but she says…

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