Sexual harassment – the very term can give you the creeps. It is not something that you should take lightly. But, what do you do when an employee complains that she has been or is being sexually harassed?
The biggest and the stupidest mistake that many companies make is that they ignore complaints. Again, sexual harassment is NOT something that you should take lightly and ignore. It is an extremely serious issue and it is your duty/responsibility to take it seriously. In fact that is the first step you should take. You may think or you may be absolutely sure that the complainant is lying or making it up but that doesn’t give you the authority to ignore it. Whether the complainant has directly told you that she is being sexually harassed or has used very soft words because she is worried or fear disclosure, you should take the necessary steps to handle the situation.
Meet with Everyone Involved. Individually
You have to start off with a thorough investigation. In your interviews you should be very specific. Ask about the date, the time, the place, any proof such as emails or text messages, and so on. Ask a few witnesses or potential witnesses, too. No matter what your assumption about the entire scenario may be you should be neutral. Also, do not conclude anything until the end. It is needless to say that you should respect the privacy of the person who complained.
Everyone involved need to know that you will not be biased. They might be worried and the accuser, especially, will need your assurance.
Now that you have the word of different people, you should put all the details together and understand everything that is going on. This step is crucial because it will help you draw the right conclusion and make the right decision.
This is not always easy. If you have lots of proof, you can make a decision but that is not always the case. Sometimes the accuser may be at fault. Sometimes things may be very messed up. Take your time to evaluate everything and to come to a decision. Once you do that, you may act on your decision. You might need to take extreme steps such as firing the employee in case the situation is very severe.
In case you take a serious action, you should follow up with an attorney and keep in touch with him.
These steps will enable you to handle sexual harassment cases successfully.
Sexual harassment cases are very sensitive and you should do the needful. Take them seriously regardless of your personal thought or opinion, and conduct a thorough investigation before coming to an unbiased decision.