Employers must take appropriate action after harassment complaint

Employers have to take complaints of workplace harassment seriously. While it is impossible for an employer to control every action of every employee, it is vital that every company has an established plan to deal with workplace harassment complaints. Under no circumstances should an employer ever ignore complaints of harassment because the consequences of doing so can be dire.

If you receive a complaint about workplace harassment, you should immediately begin an investigation into the allegations. Generally, the investigation will include interviewing the accuser, the accused and any witnesses to the incident. If there are any written documents, texts, emails or any other documentation of the events, those must also be gathered and reviewed.

As you investigate the complaint, keep documentation of your investigation. Be sure that you protect your company against complaints of retaliation by ensuring everyone involved that retaliation won't be tolerated in your organization.

The accuser and the accused should be separated while the investigation is going on. This might mean that you have to pay one of the employees to take time off. Once the investigation is over, you can take action based on the findings.

When you determine the outcome of the investigation, you should let the accuser know the findings. This includes what remedial action, if any, you took based on the findings.

Taking appropriate action after a complaint of harassment is vital because if you don't take appropriate action, you risk having to go through a jury trial or entering into a settlement. You should work to protect your company while putting your foot down to show that harassment won't be tolerated.

Source: Business Management Daily, "How NOT to respond to a harassment complaint," Jon Hyman, accessed Aug. 25, 2015

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