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Should the HR Leader Report Directly to the Board of Directors?

The recent high-profile cases against top executives like Charlie Rose, Les Moonves and Jeff Fager involving allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, should start a whole new discussion of whether the HR leader should report directly to the Board of Directors instead of the CEO or President of the company. Even in cases where it is not sexual harassment (ENRON), the HR leader will always end up in a predicament. That is, he/she must approach the “boss” to discuss allegations of a sexual nature. Many HR leaders, even the most experienced ones, do not feel comfortable confronting the CEO or President about sexual harassment and other serious allegations. The HR leader who is daring enough to take the “plunge” will undoubtedly be concerned about losing his/her jobs and credibility in the company.

In the wake of the “MeToo” and “TimesUp” movements, women are beginning to share their stories with the public about sexual harassment and other assaults they’ve experienced. The result is, powerful men in high-profile roles in large corporations, who have sexually harassed/assaulted women, are being unveiled. This unveiling has left many men and women who are guilty of similar crimes, afraid of being exposed. Having the HR Leader report to the Board could alleviate future cover-ups. It would be “organizational suicide” if, in the wake of all these scandals, the HR leader continues to report to top executives in the company. Let’s not forget Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, former Chairman of Fox News. These businessmen have been accused of unlawful misconduct and HR’s involvement in these companies is still ambiguous.

The bottom line is that the HR Leader’s reporting structure in large corporations must be re-examined if investigations of sexual harassment and other serious unlawful acts against executives are going to be taken seriously and investigated promptly. The HR Leader should report directly to the Board of Directors to eliminate any uncomfortableness, intimidation, fear of reprisal and anxiety she/he might have when complaints of misconduct are filed against the “boss” and other high-ranking officials in the company. This restructuring by the board can give more protection to women in the workplace and minimize the company’s risk for jack-pot settlements.