When you own a business, you have to always be aware of any illegal or immoral activities that could be occuring at your company. One of the biggest causes for concern is always the fear of sexual harassment claims. At the mildest, these claims can result in workplace tension, decreased employee morale, and increased turnover rates. At their worst, you can find yourself under government investigation or drawn into costly legal battles that can potentially put you out of business!
When a complaint is made by an employee, you have to respond quickly and appropriately with a proper sexual harassment investigation. 3 ways we typically see employers fail during the process are:
1. Absolutely do not retaliate!
It is against the law to punish someone for complaining about harassment or discrimination. This can be anything from subtle acts, such as:
- Changing the accuser’s job functions
- Isolating them from meetings or office functions
Some more obvious forms of retaliation include:
- Pay cuts
- Even threatening any of the above is included
2. Do not stray from Documented Procedure!
Most companies have a documented procedure in place in their company handbook that details how sexual harassment claims shall be handled (If you don’t, you should. Click here for more info). Make sure you follow these policies and that you are continually retraining your managers and supervisors the proper way to conduct a sexual harassment investigation. Failing to do this can open you up to claims of unfair treatment because you bent the rules.
3. Make sure you keep it confidential!
A harassment claim almost instantly divides the members of your team. Your employees will take a side and the rumor-mongering will begin. If these rumors get out of control and too many actual details are leaked, you can find yourself slapped with a defamation lawsuit from the victim or alleged harasser. Insist on, and reinforce, your policy of confidentiality in the course of resolving the claim.
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