If an employer receives a claim of sexual harassment in the workplace, the employer must investigate it. Failure to do so can result in a lawsuit not only from the alleged victim, but also by the person being accused of being the harasser. It is imperative for all employers to have a policy for making claims of harassment and how the investigation will be handled.
Your employees should be provided a written policy against sexual harassment that is included in the employee handbook. There should be a clear procedure set forth for how an employee should file a complaint of sexual harassment. Employers should ensure that an employee is not required to make the complaint to a supervisor whom they allege committed the harassment.
An employer should immediately begin investigating a claim of sexual harassment. Any delay in looking into the complaint can lead to trouble. The employer should have a neutral party conduct the investigation, such as an employee in human resources or even your employment lawyer. The investigation should include an interview of all parties with information regarding the claim, including the employee making the allegations, the alleged harasser and any witnesses.
While the investigation is occurring, an employer should take steps to limit or eliminate any contact between the alleged victim and the accused. However, an employer should be careful not to take any measures that could be considered as retaliatory. For example, involuntarily transferring either the complainant or the accused to another department could be seen as retaliation by the employer and result in a lawsuit.
Once the employer has completed the investigation, a determination must be made whether the claim of sexual harassment is credible. If it is, the employer must decide what disciplinary action must be taken against the harasser.
If you have questions about establishing complaint and investigation procedures for sexual harassment claims or your business is facing a lawsuit, contact The Swenson Law Firm for the advice and guidance you need.