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HR departments do not receive most harassment complaints

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2021 | Sexual Harassment |

Human resource departments should address worker complaints and assure compliance with employment laws.  But a recent survey of workers reveals that most harassment victims reported harassment to their managers instead of their human resource department.


The employer feedback management platform AllVoices conducted a survey of 822 full-time workers. A majority of employees said that their employers had harassment prevention measures. Sixty-four percent also answered that their workplaces made resources available to them.

However, forty-four percent of these surveyed workers reported workplace harassment with their current employers. Examples included bullying, abuse of power and microaggressions. Approximately 41 percent of respondents claimed that they experienced cyberbullying or online harassment.

Half of surveyed employees said they reported the harassment. Fifty-five percent submitted reports to their managers.

Eighteen percent of the respondents did not report harassment. The reasons for not reporting included fears about retaliation, their belief that nothing will be done and their feelings that the harassment did not justify a complaint.


The surveys findings on where complaints are made may be troubling and reveal problems with sexual harassment policies. Managers may be unable to deal with harassment.

Managers and leaders, in a 2019 study by the training company pelotronPM, missed important practices when they received harassment, bias, discrimination, or bullying complaints. Thirty-nine percent of these managers and leaders did not seek information on potential witnesses while 56 percent did not explain their employer’s anti-retaliation policies or explain retaliation to the complainant, witnesses or accused perpetrators.

Employees may also lack trust in their HR departments. One-fifth of workers did not trust their HR department and 30 percent did not go to HR with problems, according to a 2020 Workest survey. Thirty-five percent of those respondents based their mistrust on their belief that HR would not help them, and 31 percent feared retribution. Other respondents witnessed poor HR, damaging management practices or discrimination.


To avoid or bolster their defense against employment law claims, employers should update their training procedures to deal with new forms of harassment such as the use of digital formats. Training should also be more inclusive of groups that face targeted harassment such as the LGBTQ community.

Attorneys can help prepare training materials and policies to deal wit this issue. They can also represent parties in legal actions.