How should businesses respond to sexual harassment claims?

Sexual harassment claims are something most everyone would prefer to avoid. No one wants to get accused of wrongdoing, but many people also don’t want to speak up and report it after they experience it. Those within a company don’t want to worry about the discord between employees and the possible expense involved.

Still, sexual harassment can happen in any place where multiple people work together. All it takes is one bad actor to put a company’s future and financial solvency at risk. Companies can mitigate that risk by responding appropriately when someone does speak up about sexual harassment. What is the appropriate way for a company to respond to such complaints?

Take the report seriously and commit to an investigation

Regardless of whether the victim speaks up with themselves or a co-worker who witnessed something goes to Human Resources, the person who receives the initial report should document the matter and formally begin a paper trail.

They will then need to ensure that the appropriate person from management or human resources will follow up on the matter by speaking to other people, corroborating stories and otherwise investigating what occurred.

Protect the person experiencing harassment

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make might involve them transferring someone out of a department because that worker made a sexual harassment report. They want to get that work or away from someone who has mistreated them, but in doing so, they retaliate against that employee.

The right approach will likely involve temporarily transferring anyone suspected of misconduct or otherwise rearranging work operations so that those involved in the matter can minimize their direct interactions. There can be many ways for a company to do this, but awareness of what might constitute retaliation is crucial when making employment changes.

Commit to making things better

If the investigation upholds the allegations of workplace sexual harassment, then the company will need to take steps to address the issue. The company may need to reprimand or even terminate the offending worker.

In some cases, training or counseling might help a worker who has engaged in inappropriate behavior previously find more appropriate means of communicating with their subordinates or co-workers in the future. Companies should have a zero-tolerance policy about sexual harassment and uphold their policy.

Recognizing the right response of a company is important for those who work in management are human resources and for those thinking about stepping forward after enduring workplace sexual harassment.

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