Handling a Sexual Harassment Claim in as an Employer

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment at work is a serious matter that can happen to both men and women, and should be taken very seriously.

When an employee complains that they are experiencing sexual harassment, it is the employer’s responsibility to thoroughly investigate the claim. Conducting an investigation can often be a difficult task, so here are some tips help:

When a Complaint is Filed

  1. Provide several ways in which a formal complaint can be made. Complaints should be made with someone who was not involved in the incident. A Human Resources officer is an excellent option.

  2. Assign a staff member to oversee the complaint process. This person should be knowledgeable about the company, its people, and its history.

  3. Contact a third party attorney or investigator to review the claim, talk with all necessary parties and produce a report.

  4. Talk with the employee who is making the complaint. Make sure that they are safe from retaliation, letting them know that such behavior will not be tolerated.

The Investigation

  1. Inform the person accused that a formal complaint has been filed against them and that no acts of retaliation will be tolerated. Ask them to be patient while a thorough investigation is conducted. Assure them that you are not pre-judging the situation and that a fair investigation will be conducted. It is recommended that the accused be placed on administrative leave with pay during the investigation process.

  2. The third party investigator should interview all possible witnesses, the accused and the complainant.

  3. The investigator should make findings of fact and produce a report outlining his or her recommendations.

  4. After receiving all relevant information and the recommendation of the investigator you should make the best decision you can under the circumstances. If an attorney has not provided you with recommendations, it is recommended that you seek outside counsel before making any final employment decisions.

Addressing a sexual harassment complaint in the workplace is likely the last thing an employer wants to handle. If you need an attorney to assist with the investigation or offer recommendations, the lawyers at Stanko, Senter & Mitchell will be glad to help.