Respond in the proper manner to sexual harassment complaints

As we discussed last week, sexual harassment complaints have to be handled right away. Any delays in sexual harassment investigations can lead to serious problems for the business. When you address any sexual harassment complaint, you must ensure that you take the proper steps.

One of the most important things you can do when you are addressing a sexual harassment complaint is to document everything. By documenting everything you do, you are taking a step to keep the company protected. If an employee opts to take legal action against your company, accurate documentation can often help you in the case.

Once the complaint is received, you should assign the investigation to a staff member. This person should be an impartial party who knows the laws and the company policies on sexual harassment. This is the person who will conduct interviews and provide you with a report at the end of the investigation.

The staff member who is handling the investigation must create a plan for the investigation. This should include interviewing the complainant, the accused and any witnesses who might have seen what happened. Checking the area in which the alleged harassment occurred is another step that might be necessary.

As people are interviewed, it is vital to let them know that retaliation won't be tolerated. Letting them know that any perceived retaliation should be reported immediately is also important.

Once all the steps of the investigation are completed, a determination must be made. That determination must include whether the harassment occurred. If the investigation finds the sexual harassment occurred, appropriate action must be taken.

Your company's sexual harassment policy should be clearly displayed. Reiterating the policy after a complaint is filed might help employees understand that you are serious about preventing sexual harassment in your company.

Source: About.com, "How to Address an Employee Sexual Harassment Complaint," Susan M. Heathfield, accessed Sep. 03, 2015

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