Protect employees from retaliation after harassment complaint

Employers must respond to sexual harassment complaints in a manner that meets the standards for investigation. A thorough investigation and appropriate actions can help to protect your business, let employees know without a doubt that sexual harassment won't be tolerated, and that all complaints are taken seriously.

In a previous blog post, we discussed briefly some of the steps that must be taken in response to a sexual harassment complaint. One important step in that process is to assure the person who filed the complaint, as well as those who are interviewed during the investigation, that retaliatory actions won't be tolerated.

A retaliatory action is any adverse action that is made because of the sexual harassment complaint. This can include demoting, firing or denying a promotion to an employee who files a complaint or participates in the investigation. Incorrect or unusually harsh evaluations and increased surveillance on an employee can also be considered retaliation.

When it comes to a sexual harassment complaint, it is best to keep the accused and the complainant away from each other. This is a delicate matter because how you handle it might be construed as retaliatory. If you have to send one of the involved employees home while the investigation is done, be sure to explain that you are only doing so to keep the peace. The employee should be sent home with pay. The same is true if you have to change an employee's schedule.

There is a fine line that employers must walk when a sexual harassment complaint is made. If you are unsure of how to handle any aspect of the investigation, complaint or resolution, you should seek out answers to your questions before you take any actions.

Source: Workforce, "How Not to Respond to a Harassment Complaint," Jon Hyman, accessed Sep. 14, 2015

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