He Said/She Said – Seven Steps to Investigating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment has been at the forefront of our society the past year. As a business owner, it is important to understand how this sensitive subject can affect you and your business. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances within the workplace. As your organization’s leader, it is important to understand how to address and resolve this matter promptly. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
It’s also important to protect all involved parties and begin the investigation immediately. Employers have a duty to prove that they conducted a thorough and reasonable investigation of the allegation. Below are seven steps to investigating sexual harassment in the workplace:
Planning and Implementation
1. Gather Information
- Clearly understand the sexual harassment allegation and who is involved.
- Collect any policies, evaluate any laws and consider any internal procedures that may be implicated.
- Set goals and timelines for resolution.
2.Consider whether to engage Legal
- Put them on notice you are investigating a sexual harassment in the workplace complaint.
- Don’t render any legal conclusions yourself
Understand your liability under Title VII Sexual Harassment
- Identify and schedule witness interviews (Follow the evidence -wherever it leads)
Interview anyone else involved: You want the details: How, Who, What, When, Where, and Why?
Evaluate and Decide
4. Document, Document, Document.
- Ask for any documents such as journals, notes, emails, voicemails, texts, or social media conversations that may support complaint.
- While note taking try to write virtually every word, quote the witness, write witness name, date, location & time interview conducted.
5. When you are ready to render conclusion(s):
- Evaluate the evidence.
- Assess credibility and source of information, detail and timing, demeanor, omissions, prior incidents and motive.
- Put it all together and decide if any misconduct occurred.
Report and File
6. Write a Sexual Harassment Investigation Summary Report that includes the following:
- Overview, investigation process, summary of allegation(s) & findings, facts revealed, and analysis.
- Include notation (and copies later) of disciplinary action.
7. Report & File Retention:
- The physical file needs to be maintained as confidential company record and kept separately away from personal files.
- The report should be kept in investigation file, don’t email copies to anyone outside of protocol, and don’t allow copies to be kept by anyone outside of legal or HR without special circumstances.
The best investigations are fair, thorough, objective and truthful. It’s vital to keep the investigation based on facts and not opinion. Complaints involving sexual harassment in the workplace can arise at any time and have confidence that we are here and have the expertise to guide you through this process. If you have any questions, please reach out to your assigned DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511 .