How HR and Judges Made It Almost Impossible for Victims of Sexual Harassment to Win in Court

Source: Lauren B. Edelman, Harvard Business Review, August 22, 2018

…. Programs, policies, and training alone do not stop sexual harassment and abuse. My book Working Law — based on surveys of organizations, interviews with HR professionals, and content analyses of both human resources journals and federal court opinions — shows that sexual harassment policies and procedures can comfortably coexist in organizational cultures where women are regularly subjected to demeaning commentary, unwanted physical contact, and even threats or sexual assault. In other words, someone can be sexually harassed without recourse in an organization with plenty of rules on the books. ….

…. But one factor that’s often left out of this conversation is the role the courts have played in shielding companies from legal liability. When a case does manage to reach the legal system, courts will often side with a company due to the mere presence of an official policy, regardless of whether the policy is actually effective in addressing harassment or abuse. I call these policies “symbolic structures,” and they often do more to protect employers from lawsuits than they do to protect employees from harassment. ….