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May 14 2016


How To Conduct A Proper Workplace Sexual Harassment Investigation

When an employee makes a sexual harassment complaint against another employee, the employer must take the complaint seriously. Ignoring the complaint, even if you have some reason to doubt the accuser, could have serious legal repercussions for the company. Taking a complaint seriously means not only listening to the accuser in a compassionate, non-judgmental way; it also means separating the parties involved if at all possible and conducting a thorough investigation.

When separating the accuser and the accused, it's very important to make sure that a move does not seem in any way like a demotion or retaliation against the complainer. In fact, you should do all you can to reassure the person who made the complaint that he or she will not be retaliated against in any way.

Allen Baler

The next step in the process is a thorough investigation into the details of the complaint. Both the accused and the accuser will need to be interviewed. A workplace investigation interview should be conducted as neutrally as possible, communicating neither blame nor support for either of the parties. The investigation should also involve as many witnesses as possible and collect very specific details regarding places, times, and words that were said. Documentation of the investigation should include a clear time-line, specific details, and direct quotes.

Even after a thorough investigation, it can be difficult to make a decision because the evidence may not be clear. Whatever decision you make is going to hurt one of your employees. If there is sufficient evidence to support the accusation, the harassing employee must be sanctioned and possibly fired, no matter how valuable to the company his or her work has been. Often the evidence is not clear cut, but it is important for the employer to make a final decision and enforce it.

When an employee makes a complaint of harassment, the employer will need to decide who should conduct the investigation. Some employers choose an unbiased, trustworthy employee; however, if the interviewer doesn't have experience doing workplace investigations, he or she may not be able to do a thorough job and the company might be liable for failing to properly investigate the complaint. A better option is to use a firm which specializes in workplace investigations, like Diversified Risk Management.

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