Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Employers who learn of sexual harassment complaints, in whatever fashion, must:
- Treat all complaints seriously.
- Thoroughly investigate and do so promptly.
- Get the names of possible witnesses from the accuser.
- Empathize with the person, and listen to the complaint without agreeing or disagreeing.
- Ask the accuser what remedy she would like without promising anything. Frequently victims only want the harassment to stop.
- Carefully document each step of the investigation without drawing conclusions until the end.
- Remind the accused and all witnesses that retaliation is prohibited.
- Remind all persons involved that they should not discuss the matter and keep it as confidential as possible.
- Design discipline to prevent the inappropriate conduct from happening again.
- Terminate when appropriate for serious violations (unwanted touching) and if supervisors are involved.
- Determine appropriate punishment if the investigation is inconclusive or the actions constituting sexual harassment are not serious.
- When discipline might not be warranted, provide a simple reminder about language choice and conduct in cases when two employees view the same situation in an entirely different light.
- Keep the results of the investigation and any discipline on a strict need-to-know basis.
- Advise the victim of the result of the investigation and the punishment, if any, and the reasoning behind what happens.
- Follow up with the accuser in the weeks and months to come to make sure no retaliation occurs.
- In serious or pervasive situations, consider hiring a professional to conduct sensitivity training.
- Reinforce the no-harassment policy, and express strong disapproval of any inappropriate conduct. Be sure your policy is posted.