Should you complain about discrimination/harassment to your human resources department?

posted by Arkady Itkin  |  Aug 8, 2009 12:48 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Many employees who are subjected to discrimination or harassment by their co-workers or supervisors believe that they are better off not speaking up and tolerating the potentially unlawful conduct to which they are subjected, fearing that complaining will lead to being fired. The reality is, however, that putting up with discrimination and harassment is almost never a good idea. First, the harassers almost never stop their wrongful conduct on their own. In fact, the harassment becomes worse as the perpetrator sees what he can get away with, without being punished.

Even more importantly, if you don't complain about your co-worker's harassment, you will not have a harassment claim if you are terminated, and you will not be only out of work, but also without remedy against your employer. Under California law, an employer is only liable for harassment by one of the non-management employees, if the employer knew or had a reason to know that the harassment took place. This means that if you don't complain, most likely you have no claim. 

Thus, it is in your best interest to complain about harassment to the personnel which is entrusted with the duties to handle or prevent harassment at your workplace. Make sure that you complain in writing so that there is no dispute later as to whether you actually complained about unlawful conduct at workplace. 

Arkady Itkin
San Francisco & Sacramento Employment Lawyer

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