Caught in the Middle of Ethics and Profit: Can the Human Resources Department be Blamed for Persistent Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement?

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


The rise of the #MeToo movement empowered women to tell their stories surrounding sexual harassment; however, it also exposed an immense flaw in the way sexual harassment is handled. Rather than discussing the challenges the human resources department (HR) faces, prior literature written about sexual harassment focuses on the different laws and regulations aimed at preventing sexual harassment. For this reason, my research turns to HR to explain why the #MeToo movement occured given that existing laws and regulations should theoretically prevent sexual harassment. Initially, I hypothesized that a male centered work culture was the source of persisting sexual harassment. By interviewing seven HR professionals in four different industries, my goal was to get a sense of why the #MeToo movement happened as well as gain more insight regarding specific sexual harassment training protocols. The results of my interviews showed that sexual harassment complaints tend to take different routes depending on the company. This means that employees might go to the manager first and then HR, which complicates reporting and the processes which follow. My findings suggest that my interviewees did share my initial hypothesis; in addition to that, they pointed to an array of different issues ranging from privileging profit to individual responsibility as some of the other main explanations why sexual harassment persists in the workplace. I argue that the human resources department, though it faces its own set of flaws, holds limited responsibility when it comes to the #MeToo movement and that persistent sexual harassment is mostly attributed to working towards a corporate mission and lack of power within HR.


Access to this thesis is limited to the Whittier College community. Contact for additional information.

This document is currently not available here.