Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world's largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: Last year, my manager pestered me with inappropriate remarks and even touching. It stopped for a while, but lately, he’s been at it again, and I don’t want to wait for it to get worse. Is there a time limit for when I can file a sexual harassment complaint with HR? – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: First, let me tell you how appalled and disappointed I am that you’re dealing with a manager like this. Even two years after the #MeToo movement, unwanted touching and sexually-charged remarks in the workplace remain a problem.
The short answer to your question about time limits is: No, there is not a time limit for you to complain about this behavior with your HR Department. While it would have been best for you to have immediately complained of the behavior when it first started, nothing prevents you from informing your HR professional now about what you’ve been experiencing.
Here are two other reasons you should bring HR into this matter sooner rather than later: First, the longer you wait, there is more of a chance other employees are being harmed; you have an opportunity to protect other women in the workplace.
Secondly, and this is being totally honest with you, people might question your motivation for bringing the claim forward if you let it go on for too long. I remember a male bringing a sexual harassment claim against his supervisor alleging behavior that occurred over 15 months. Because he didn’t muster up the courage to do so until his manager gave him a poor performance review, many questioned the legitimacy of the allegations. Was he fine with the manager’s sexual advances until she didn’t give him a good annual review?
So while reporting any form of sexual misconduct is not easy, you should try to take action quickly – ideally, the following day or week.
It’s also best to provide HR with as much information as possible – from the exact day and time of the incident to a detailed account of what happened, preferably in writing. The sooner you come forward with the details, the sooner HR can investigate the matter and root out the problem.
If you’re looking to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state agency, a more rigid statute of limitations may apply. The EEOC instructs you to “file your charge within 180 or 300 days of the last incident of harassment” (depending on state law), although the EEOC will take “all incidents of harassment” into account when investigating your case, even if they happened more than 180 or 300 days earlier.
I hope you take action and report your harasser to HR.
Question: What advice do you have for job seekers with disabilities? While interviewing for new roles, I’ve had mixed experiences disclosing my disabilities and asking for accommodations. – Anonymous
Taylor: I know firsthand that individuals with disabilities can be just as – if not more – effective than those without disabilities.
I have a lot of advice for job seekers. But for you, and others out there with disabilities, I’ll share some very specific words of encouragement that I hope you will take to heart.
Earlier this year, I met a man living with paralysis who told me, “When you hire somebody like me, you’re hiring a resilient problem solver. We know how to overcome challenges. And when you give us a chance, we won’t waste it.”
I absolutely believe that.
Too often, employers focus on the downsides of disabilities. But the reality is that your disability has shaped your character, perspective, and skills in unique and valuable ways that you should reflect on and then highlight for potential employers.
More practically, you should take heart that federal law is on your side. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers to ask job seekers about their medical history during a job interview. And the ADA requires employers to discuss “reasonable accommodations” with qualified job applicants or employees if any are required.
No one can force you to disclose your disability, but you should – especially if you need an accommodation. Only then will you be able to work at peak efficiency, which is what that employer expects from you.
If the potential employer is hesitant about providing accommodations for you, then you’ll know it’s not the right fit anyway.
Hopefully, these points help somewhat. Ultimately, the best advice I can give to any job seeker is to cultivate authentic confidence. We are experiencing a robust economy, low unemployment, and a growing skills gap problem. Employers need every qualified person they can find and we don’t want disability to get in the way of us accessing a talented person. So mentally convert your disability into your secret for success.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sexually-charged remarks at work should be reported soon as possible.