Harassment: How to stop it before–and after–it starts

November 30, 2011
in Employment Law

Protect your organization from harassment lawsuits by focusing your attention on both preventive and corrective measures. Give every employee a copy of your harassment policy. Train everyone to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities.

Remember: When an employee complains about alleged harassment, you are obligated to investigate.

Your policy and complaint procedure should contain:

  • A clear explanation of prohibited conduct
  • A clearly described complaint process that provides the names and numbers of contact people, emphasizing that someone outside the employee’s chain of command will be available to take complaints
  • Your commitment to taking immediate and appropriate action, including a prompt, impartial investigation
  • Assurance that reporting harassment or cooperating with investigations won’t cause retaliation
  • Assurance that you will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the greatest extent possible.

Effective investigations

As soon as you learn about alleged harassment, investigate immediately. During the probe, make sure further harassment doesn’t occur. You may need to transfer or temporarily suspend the alleged harasser.

Make sure the investigator is someone who can objectively gather and consider the relevant facts. They should be well trained in skills for interviewing witnesses and evaluating credibility.

When all of the evidence is in, the investigator or a man­­agement official who reviews the report should determine whether harassment occurred. Report the decision to everyone involved.

If the evidence is inconclusive, reiterate your policy to employees and institute further preventive measures, such as training and monitoring.

Discipline and records

Remedial measures should correct the effects of the har­assment and put employees who complain in the position they would have been in had the misconduct not occurred.

Keep records of all harassment complaints to help identify patterns by an individual.

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