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Employee handbooks and company policies

To call or not to call the company hotline or HR with a report of workplace harassment, misconduct or discrimination

Many companies have a hotline that an employee can call, either anonymously or not, to report concerns about misconduct, discrimination, harassment, financial irregularities, etc. There is no legal requirement that an employee must call one of these hotlines or notify Human Resources in order to pursue a legal claim. On the other hand, an experienced employment attorney can help navigate this process with the right overall strategy to use this process to your advantage. The lawyer can draft your report to make sure you emphasize the right facts and legal hot button issues to get the attention and protection you deserve. If all else fails, the lawyer can then get directly involved, having worked the process to help “set the table” for negotiating on your behalf.

Employees understandably wonder how confidential these hotlines are and whether they really are employee friendly.  As a Washington Post reporter sardonically wrote when commenting on allegations of serial sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, going to Human Resources or calling the company hotline may be like going to the KGB to complain about Vladimir Putin. A corporate atmosphere of fear and reprisals creates a chilling effect. The hotline and HR resources have no real value when employees worry that anti-retaliation policies are just words.

There are undoubtedly hotlines and human resources departments where complaints of workplace harassment are taken seriously and handled responsibly. Nevertheless, a company can have all the corporate handbooks, hotlines and internal memos in the world, but they won’t do much if the real-life work environment sends the opposite message.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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