How To Handle a Sexual Harassment Complaint

Thank your lucky stars that you are living where you are with progressive and enforceable sexual harassment laws but if you cry foul because you were fired for looking hot you better have enough grounds to prove the merits of that case. Oh, what some people will do to use sexual harassment to make noise! Of course this is not to say that sexual harassment does not happen, it does! That’s why laws were created to protect both men and women from being abused in that way. If you encounter a sexual harassment complaint against someone at your office there’s a good chance that you work in Human Resources.

Aside from the procedure required to handle this type of complaint, you might want to add these to your check list:

  1. Treat the complaint in a professional and serious manner. There’s nothing so discouraging as laughing about the matter and dismissing it as something of a joke. This isn’t Jershey Shore. This is real and appallingly unacceptable.
  2. Investigate the matter completely. Interview all the parties concerned including witnesses if any. Encourage witnesses to speak up by having a witness protection program at your office. Acting quickly and according to procedure will impress on the employees that management does not tolerate something like this in the workplace.
  3. Make this message loud and clear: No one is above the law.  C’mon now, don’t you watch enough Clint Eastwood to know that? When the complainant lodges a complaint against anyone in the organization even those belonging to management (especially those belonging to management), it is your job to ensure that the case proceeds according to schedule. Justice delayed is justice denied so get a move on no matter who gets hurt along the way.
  4. Do not take sides. Neutrality is the name of the game. You will be dealing with the merits of the case not personalities. In fact, if you want to be blind like Lady Justice, secretly use nicknames like Banana 1 and Banana 2, whatever helps you from becoming biased about the case that’s right before you.
  5. Empathize. Okay, you might think that this runs contrary to suggestion #4 but the truth is you need to empathize without taking sides. Often, victims of sexual harassment just need reassurance that you are listening.
  6. Solicit a solution from the complainant. You might be surprised to know that the complainant doesn’t want the accused to lose the job or pay money, just that the harassment ceases as well as having this put on record. Ditto, a disciplinary sanction against the accused.
  7. Document everything. Gather all the necessary documents, have a lawyer from your legal department look into these documents, make sure the signatures are in order. The bottom line is that everything is above board and solid.  
  8. Make it clear that retaliation won’t be tolerated. If someone from both parties takes very drastic steps that can only be described as retaliatory like slashing car tires, aggression, or threats, that this will automatically lead to a dismissal or something close to it.

As a matter of SOP, remind both parties that they are strongly prohibited from talking about the case at anytime even after the case has been resolved.


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