Human resources often comes poorly equipped to handle serious workplace harassment claims. (Image: Shutterstock)

In an ideal world, anyone who experiences harassment at work would head directly to the human resource department. That’s where a sensitive, well-trained professional would conduct an “immediate and impartial” investigation followed by “appropriate action to remediate or prevent the prohibited conduct from continuing,” in the procedural language preferred by the Society for Human Resource Management, a national trade group.

The recent spate of high-profile workplace harassment allegations demonstrate how far things are from that standard. Susan Fowler took her complaints of harassment to Uber’s HR department, only to have her concerns dismissed because her harasser was a “star-performer.” At the Weinstein Company, meanwhile, HR allegedly funneled every complaint back to Harvey Weinstein, employees told the New Yorker. An employee at Signet Jewelers, which is facing a lawsuit alleging workplace harassment and discrimination, said she never heard from HR after filing her complaint. “As far as I am aware nothing was ever done about it,” she said in court documents. (A spokesperson for Weinstein didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment; Signet says it “has had strong systems in place for reporting and addressing” workplace harassment.) 

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