An Employee has Made a Sexual Harassment Claim: Now What?
Posted on 11/15/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
A quick stroll through the news will show you that sexual harassment claims are very much alive in the modern workplace. A claim which is not addressed or properly remedied can cause tremendous problems for an employer, from simple bad press to penalties and even legal claims. How can you ensure that a sexual harassment claim is treated properly? Here are some recommended steps to follow to help lower the chances of a lawsuit, and to ensure that your practice remains a safe and healthy work environment for your employees.
1. Document everything. When it comes to employee complaints (not just for sexual harassment), proper documentation is essential. Therefore, when an employee makes a complaint, you should document the details such as dates, parties involved, statements, and the alleged bad behavior. In addition, you should continue to document all steps of the process. This documentation can help to support your version of events if a lawsuit should happen to arise in the future.
2. Take claims seriously. Failing to take sexual harassment claims seriously is one of the biggest factors in determining whether a company acted appropriately. Even if the allegations do not seem credible, or if you do not believe that they rise to the level of sexual harassment, it is your responsibility to treat all claims equally. Therefore, you must have a documentation and follow-up process in place for all claims, and you must follow it to the letter.
3. Conduct an investigation. Part of taking a claim seriously is undertaking an investigation into the alleged behavior. Often, this involves more than simply meeting with the alleged harasser (which you should do, and don’t forget to take notes). The results of your investigation will help you to determine what, if any, steps you should take to ensure that the alleged victim feels safe in the workplace, and that the bad behavior will not continue. At a minimum, you may wish to review your sexual harassment policies and have your employees undergo sexual harassment training. Whatever steps you take, make sure that they are well-documented.
4. Contact an attorney if necessary. Sexual harassment claims can be quite serious, and may lead to potential Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims and lawsuits. Contacting your attorney to check on the legality of the steps you are taking and to notify him or her of potential legal claims is always a good idea. Remember that all claims need to be taken seriously, and consulting counsel can demonstrate your dedication to eradicating sexual harassment in your workplace and ensuring the safety of all of your employees.