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Sexual Harassment Investigation Guide: Protecting Your Business

Employers have the affirmative duty to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. The investigation should happen whether the alleged victim lodges a formal complaint or simply notifies their colleagues. Here is how employers can investigate claims of sexual harassment and help protect their company.

Choose an Investigator

Your company should have a policy on how employees report sexual harassment cases. In most cases, employees report to their supervisor or designated manager within the human resources department. The supervisor or manager must know how to handle their complaints and forward them to the appropriate persons in the human resource department. Early reporting enables the management to find the best person to investigate the claim.

The employer will choose a qualified person that won’t blindly side with the harasser or victim. Such a person should have the respect of other employees and doesn’t have any personal connections to either of the parties. If the employer can’t find such a person within the organization, they can get somebody from outside the business to investigate the sexual harassment claim. Choosing the wrong person to investigate can discourage future victims of sexual harassment from reporting or providing information to the employer.

Protect Confidentiality

Claims of sexual harassment are serious and affect the reputation of both the alleged victim and the suspected person. Create systems and policies to ensure details of the investigation don’t leak. However, avoid promising total confidentiality since it may not be possible to control all information surrounding the investigation. Only people who have a business need-to-know should have access to details of the investigation.

Open a secure file to store all documents relating to the sexual harassment investigation case. Some of the things to include in the file are: 

  • The original complaint
  • Notes of your interview with the complainant, accused, and witnesses
  • Any communication between the investigator and the involved parties 
  • The investigator’s report
  • Documents of instructions to persons inside or outside of the organization on remedies following the completion of the investigation.

Store the file in a secure place to protect the confidentiality of the investigation.

Conduct Proper Interviews

Begin the interview by providing a general overview of the complaints and what is happening. Also, inform the interviewee of the company’s sexual harassment policies and how they affect the current case. Delve into the interview by asking general questions. Slowly narrow down the questioning to more specific details that concern the case.

Ensure your questioning gathers information that can create a chronological order of events surrounding the sexual harassment claim. Once you finish the questioning, ask the interviewee whether they have shared everything they know about the case.  

Set Out the Allegations

Create a comprehensive document of the allegations and send the document to the respondent. You can also provide a summary of the allegations when you interview the respondent. Remember to inform the respondent that these are allegations and they are considered innocent until proven guilty. The respondent should also know the possible repercussions that the company will take if these allegations are proven to be true.

As you investigate, place various restrictions on the accused’s employment contract. Before you interview the accused, consider suspending that employee until the completion of the investigations. You can also suspend the accused salary and bar them from accessing the business premises. Before placing any restrictions, consider the employee’s history to come to the appropriate temporary restriction.

Sexual harassment cases are serious problems for any employer. The first step is to contact a business lawyer to guide you. Mohajerian A Professional Law Corporation is a law firm that specializes in helping employers and businesses with various legal issues. Contact us now for more information.