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Walk a Mile in the HR Leader's Shoes

Is the HR leader daring enough to tell the boss, I am investigating you for allegations of sexual harassment?

HR leaders have always walked a fine line when allegations of sexual harassment or other forms of sexual misconduct are filed against CEOs and other top-level executives. Deciding to approach the boss can be problematic, especially when the boss is the CEO or President of the company. Avoidance should not be an option because it results in failure to investigate allegations that ultimately will cause the company millions of dollars. But when dealing directly with top-level executives, the fear of losing your job is more than likely the only factor that prevents the HR leader from addressing the problem head-on. What is the HR leader to do?

As an HR executive, I would caution other HR leaders against conducting their own sexual harassment investigations, particularly when the investigations involve top executives in the company. If possible, consult with the company’s employment law attorney and ask the attorney to conduct the investigation. This advice may not prevent the HR leader from becoming a “target”, but it removes the HR leader from a situation where persuasion, fear and intimidation could overpower ethics, morals, and good judgement. It would be beneficial to hear from the HR leaders at Fox News and CBS News on how they handled recent high-profiled sexual harassment allegations against top executives. Were they aware of the allegations? If so, were they afraid of losing their jobs or did they simply failed to properly investigate the allegations? If I had to guess, I would say some amount of both.

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