Investigating sexual harassment claims

Sexual harassment at work by either men or women of the same sex or a different sex is unlawful and can create a hostile work environment. Swift, proper action can help you protect your company from expensive lawsuits.

Here are seven best practices for investigating a workplace sexual harassment claim.

1. Handle all complaints thoroughly, confidentially and impartially

A sexual harassment claim, whether made by the victim or a witness, whether reported formally or informally, must be taken seriously, and always must be kept confidential to the extent practical. Above all, don’t downplay the claim, and be sure your investigators are well trained and impartial.

2. Start investigations at once

Delaying the investigation once you become aware of the claim could give the impression that your company is not treating the employee’s sexual harassment complaint seriously. You also risk facing a lawsuit before completing your investigation.

3. Put an end to all fears of retaliation

All parties involved must be made aware that the company will not tolerate any form of retaliation against anyone involved in the investigation.

4. Gather evidence

Information such as who was involved, the names of any witnesses, what happened, where it occurred, any comments made during the incident or afterwards, and why the complainant found the behavior inappropriate must be documented.

Include any emails, social media posts, text messages, contemporaneous notes, and other supporting documents .

5. Build a paper trail

Keep track of all complaints, evidence, and the actions the company took during and after the investigation. This will bolster your company’s defenses in case of a lawsuit.

6. Take corrective measures

Create a report discussing your factual findings, conclusions, and the steps your company has taken or will take to remedy the situation. Ensure that all parties are provided with the information contained in this report.

7. Training

All employees should receive regular training on sexual harassment prevention, so they know what is considered improper behavior and whom to report it to. Ensure that your sexual harassment prevention policy and training is available to all employees as well as contractors, temporary workers, and interns. Do not forget to review your sexual harassment policies and procedures annually.

Sexual harassment claims can be challenging and costly to your business. They can result in lower production, low employee morale, and reputational damage, which could force your business to permanently close its doors.

If you are dealing with a sexual harassment claim, or need help updating your policies and procedures, don’t wait. Give us a call at 973.787.8442 or schedule a Strategy Session with us today so we can help.

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