Sexual harassment in the workplace has been a hot topic for the last few weeks. While not a new focus area, the recent claims in Hollywood have shed new light on the different forms harassment by coworkers, employers, and associates can take. The sensitivity surrounding these complaints can be a challenge for HR departments, but companies must be diligent in their approach to handling sexual harassment properly to minimize legal ramifications.
- Define the type of sexual harassment complaint.
There are two types of sexual harassment as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Once you’ve determined under which category it falls, you can proceed accordingly.
- Take all accusations seriously.
No matter the type of complaint you’re facing, HR departments should take every incident into consideration and not disregard an accusation for any reason. This could have severe consequences for all parties involved.
- Maintain confidentiality at all times.
Handling sexual harassment complaints can be a particularly delicate situation that can have physical and psychological effects on employees. With this in mind, it’s important to convey confidentiality to make all parties feel secure during the investigation process.
- Conduct non-bias interviews with representation.
You will likely need to conduct several interviews with the victim, the accused, and potential witnesses. Select appropriate individuals to facilitate the investigation. Ones that can evaluate without prejudice and make a decision on evidence and testimony. This may include a third party or require legal representation for a non-bias process that ensures a just outcome.
- Document everything.
It goes without saying that every HR investigation should be documented. However, it’s particularly important that every facet of a sexual harassment inquiry be recorded and archived due to the nature of the complaint and the impact it can have on lives of participants. Evidence and testimony may need to be reexamined, used in future cases, or be used for further prosecution in court.
- Enforce an actionable plan.
Once you’ve come to a formal decision and have informed all parties, take action right away. This may require harassment training and exercises in rehabilitation, or immediate termination if the accused is found responsible for mistreatment. It’s necessary to impose penalties following an outcome to avoid a passive approach to sexual harassment in the workplace. Taking immediate action sends a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
Sexual harassment guidelines exist and are clearly defined by the DOL to protect all personnel from uncomfortable and unsafe situations in the workplace. It is a company’s legal responsibility to ensure that these policies are enforced and all complaints are investigated to the fullest extent.
LaborSoft is the number one partner for HR case and grievance management for businesses. Our configurable, cloud-based HR technology helps you document and archive supporting materials for HR disputes including sexual harassment claims. LaborSoft saves you time and money with online features and capabilities that streamline investigations and minimize risk.
Contact us for a customized demonstration and learn how LaborSoft can help you improve communications, build a more collaborative, safe, and supportive workplace, and reduce the likelihood of costly litigation.