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The Problem with HR

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The Problem with HR

For 30 years, we’ve trusted human-resources departments to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment. How’s that working out?

The Atlantic,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Campaigns against sexual harassment have failed to produce a more respectful and safe work environment for women.

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  • Overview
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Since the 1990s, HR departments have been busy educating employees about sexual harassment and drawing up companywide policies for proper conduct. These efforts, however, have largely failed to produce a more respectful and safe work environment. The Harvey Weinstein scandal, followed by the #MeToo movement, are testament to that. Writing for The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan seeks to find out what went wrong. Her analysis provides important insights for HR professionals and anyone interested in workplace discrimination issues.


Since the early 1990s, HR has been in charge of preventing and dealing with sexual harassment.

The 1991 Anita Hill hearings, in which Hill publicly accused then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, was a watershed moment in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. A few years prior, the US Supreme Court had ruled in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that sexual harassment violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination at the workplace. Both events alerted US employers that they were at risk of being held liable for sexual harassment claims brought by their employees. Consequently, they put...

About the Author

Caitlin Flanagan is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. She is the author of Girl Land and To Hell With All That

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