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Will Human Resources handle your harassment claim well?

If the company you work for has a Human Resources Department, this is probably the place to go with complaints, including sexual harassment claims.

How should you prepare? How will HR manage your claim? What should you expect to happen?

First steps for you

If a co-worker is making suggestive remarks to you, sending racy emails or engaging in unwanted touching, your first course of action is to confront him. Writing is better than conversing. He may not realize that he has offended you. If you send an email telling him his actions are making you uncomfortable and asking him to stop, he will probably reply. Once this happens, you have established written evidence, and you can show a hard copy to HR to back up your harassment claim—especially if you have not made a dent in your co-worker’s behavior.

Next steps for HR

HR employees must be impartial. To work on your claim, the representative will question you about what happened, but he or she will also interview your co-worker. HR may also review your personnel records and talk with your supervisor plus any employees who might have witnessed the harassment incidents.

Preparation for the unexpected

In the end, your HR representative might say that their investigation was inconclusive. However, he or she now has a record of possible harassment, which may come into play if someone else makes similar claims against this same co-worker. Meanwhile, keep in mind that you may have to continue working with him, although HR might be able to exert some influence that results in his being moved to another department.

Consideration of options

Unless you are a new employee, you probably know the HR personnel in your company and have an opinion about their effectiveness in terms of managing a harassment claim. If you prefer not to approach HR or are not satisfied with the way the department handled your claim, you have the right to go outside the company and explore your legal options.

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