It’s easy to imagine that most business owners, leaders, or HR managers would feel a sense of trepidation after receiving a complaint of sexual harassment on their watch. In the post “me too” era, we collectively share a far greater awareness of the damaging impacts of this kind of misconduct—not to mention the potential pitfalls for businesses that poorly navigate a complaint and decisions around mounting a sexual harassment investigation.
However, sexual harassment at work statistics continue to highlight a substantial problem across the United States. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reveals that 27,291 charges alleging sexual harassment were brought between FY 2018 and FY 2021 alone, and those numbers don’t reflect the reality that almost three quarters of sexual harassment claims in the workplace go unreported.
While these numbers point to an ongoing need within the corporate world for efforts to reduce the risks that might set a course towards any sexual harassment investigation, at least those faced with driving such corporate investigations can use the wisdom of those who have gone before them to shine a light toward resolution in the present moment and justice for potential victims. Critical to this process is swift action and a respectful approach to caring for employees while uncovering the truth. Read on for top tips from the Lauth Investigations International team about how to get this done right.
Don’t Wait to Take Action
As soon as a sexual harassment complaint is received, it is essential to take prompt action. This will include reporting the complaint to those relevant in the chain of command and the human resources department. The process of corporate investigations must begin right away, with any delay in doing so putting the victim and other employees in danger of further abuse. Dragged heals at this juncture may also steer an organization towards a lawsuit or fines if they are later found to have acted irresponsibly.
Take Care Of Your Team
Even though you don’t yet have all the facts, it is important to demonstrate how seriously the complaint is being taken while safeguarding the employees involved. This early step of a sexual harassment investigation calls for collaborating with the complainant to ensure they feel protected. You should be prepared to separate the complainant and the accused either by moving them to a new workstation or changing their scheduled hours. Alternatively, you may decide it is most appropriate to put the accused individual on paid leave until the matter is resolved.
Ensure a Discreet and Unbiased Investigation
A sexual harassment investigation can turn the lives of those in its orbit upside down if not handled with care. Every aspect of the investigation must be approached with confidentiality and discretion in mind. Perhaps more importantly, the investigation must be free from bias. This can be particularly challenging in any workplace setting as members of different departmental teams often socialize together.
The person chosen to lead the investigation cannot have a relationship with the complainant employee, the individual subject to the allegation, or any witnesses. Any indications of bias may upend the legal standing of the conclusion of the investigation and any resulting action taken. So if in any doubt, it is always better to bring an external corporate investigator in to oversee the process. Do you need support in mounting a respectful sexual harassment investigation in your workplace? A corporate investigator from Lauth Investigations International is expertly trained to navigate sensitive corporate investigations with diligence, compassion, and professionalism. Working with our specialist investigators will ensure swift resolution while protecting both employees and the business from future harm. To learn more, contact our corporate investigations team today.
Would you say your business has a clear-cut anti-harassment policy? If you’re thinking, “sure, zero-tolerance is baked into our businesses values,” then you might need to dig a little deeper. That’s because this worrying indicator of corporate culture gone wrong doesn’t adhere to a bold mission statement or core values in a hand book—it relies upon real action and daily practices. You can’t prevent workplace harassment through thought alone. Your workplace’s leadership has to live it.
Workplace harassment—whether it comes in the form of bullying, discrimination, or sexual harassment—can hit any business, small or large. The ramifications can extend from distress and loss of productivity through to PR nightmares and law suits. Undoubtedly, prevention is the ideal path. So, lets break down real strategies that you can implement today.
Get Your Workplace Harassment Policy Up To Date
When was the last time your company policy on workplace harassment was reviewed and revitalized? It’s important that, periodically, policies are revisited and updated. They should be clear-cut and comprehensive, as well as complying with local, state, and federal regulations in regards to all forms of harassment and discrimination. If in doubt, consult with an expert to make sure that all aspects have been covered.
Make Sure Anti-Harassment Values Are In All Employees’ Vocabularies
Just as nobody reads the fine-print these days, not all employees will be ready to recite every company policy—even of you provided them with a glossy print copy. That makes it your responsibility to keep company values alive in people’s minds. This can be achieved by sending out periodic memos, and instituting training and awareness programs. Establish clear expectations as to what acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior looks like, and lead by example.
Pass the Anti-Harassment Torch to Your Trusted Leaders
Providing more intensive training to department heads, HR personnel, and executives can help you forge a culture within which harassment is unwelcome. In this way, positive reinforcement can come from many directions, making it more difficult for toxicity to take hold. Ensure that those carrying the torch know how to spot warning signs of harassment and make all employees aware of how to report workplace harassment. On something so important for the health of employees and the business itself, the door should always open.
Forge A Strong and Healthy Corporate Culture
A healthy corporate culture is always a goal worth striving for, because when employees feel nurtured and empowered, they are ultimately equipped to innovate and achieve. This means tangible value for any business, but more than that—it means a reduced risk of threats ranging from workplace harassment through to corporate theft or white-collar crime. If you are unsure of the current standing of your organization’s corporate culture, a Corporate Culture Audit can give you a comprehensive overview, as well as a clear road-map towards measurable improvements.
Be Ready to Handle Complaints With Respect
While every effort in prevention is worthwhile, it is impossible to eliminate the risk of workplace harassment entirely. If a member of your team files a complaint or one of your torch-bearers sees cause for concern, it’s crucial to be ready to launch a thorough, sensitive, and diligent investigation. In this endeavor, a seasoned external corporate investigator can be a powerful ally—ensuring that your investigation serves impartial justice while being by the book, optimally documented, and airtight against future legal scrutiny. Why not discover more about Corporate Culture Audits and support for Workplace Harassment Investigations from Lauth Investigations International. Our team are ever-ready to advise and discuss the unique needs of any organization, so get in touch today if you’d like to find out more.
Recent years have seen activist movements such as “Me Too”, “Times Up”, and “Black Lives Matter” drive a positive paradigm shift. More and more people are standing up for their rights to live and work with dignity. This means that the businesses that take a workplace harassment complaint seriously shine brightly as contemporary leaders in their fields—while the businesses that don’t risk losing their relevance to consumers and potential recruits alike.
If you’re here, then the chances are that you’re striving to secure your organization’s footing firmly within the first of those two camps. An essential port of call at the beginning of this journey is establishing a powerful anti-harassment policy, with crystal clear protocols to support it. Today we’re going to be discussing the best practices to incorporate when dealing with a harassment claim. Don’t forget, every harassment complaint poses a major risk to your organization, so—whether navigating a report of workplace bullying, discrimination, or sexual misconduct—attention to detail is vital.
Establishing a Complaints Procedure
Did you know that more than 50% of the filings that arrive with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year are retaliation complaints? Well, you do now—so it’s time to make sure that your complaints procedure is action-ready. Consistency is vital when handling workplace harassment complaints, so having a polished procedural roadmap to hand will be invaluable.
This protocol should be tailored to your organization’s size, resources, culture, and mandate. If you’re reading this article because a workplace harassment complaint is already on your desk—but there’s no up-to-date and established procedure to speak of—then consider this the perfect opportunity to create one that is iron-clad. Your complaints procedure should cover:
Outlining your organization’s anti-harassment policies
Handling all complaints with seriousness and professionalism
Acting quickly, while memories and evidence are fresh
Considering if protective steps are required on behalf of the complainant
Documentation resources and instructions
Interview procedures and order of interviews
The importance of an investigation timeline
Communication protocols—such as leadership immediately informing HR
The need to remain neutral to all parties
Whether managers, HR, or external investigators will take the lead
Maintaining confidentiality of all parties as far as possible
Making employees aware of their right to complain and who they can speak to
PR protocols if the harassment complaint goes public
When a Complaint Has Been Received
When an accusation of workplace harassment has been made, time is of the essence. That said, every step taken should be with legal scrutiny in mind, so begin by efficiently making a plan of action and drawing necessary resources together. With legality and justice prioritized, the importance of documentation cannot be overstated.
All interviews and evidence gathered should be carefully documented and dated. It’s also vital to be aware that any written communication—such as emails—may also later become evidence if litigation follows. As such, caution, discretion, neutral language, and sticking to the known facts will serve you well.
Safeguarding Your Organization’s Integrity
Beyond the need to protect your employees and ensure their well-being at work, it is also vital to protect your organization—both in terms of reputation and financial risk. All actions taken and conclusions draw must reflect a thorough and indiscriminate process. A robust approach for businesses aiming to ensure that they will not later be accused of bias is bringing in an external investigator. This type of specialist will be ready to support navigating any workplace harassment complaint with impeccable practice.
A seasoned corporate investigator from Lauth Investigations international will take the lead on your workplace investigation, lifting the associated stress from your team’s shoulders. By turning to their trusted services, you will be able to enjoy absolute confidence in the protocols followed, the quality of documentation, the capacity to stand up to legal scrutiny, and ultimately the conclusions drawn. This can alleviate what would otherwise be a logistical challenge and substantial burden on your HR team.
Anyone who has ever been the victim of any kind of bullying or harassment knows that it can leave a person’s world turned upside down. For businesses getting to grips with how to minimize the risks of workplace harassment, it can be motivating to understand the far-reaching ramifications of these issues—from stalling team performance to broken brand reputation, and from dwindling profits through to swelling legal costs.
In truth, workplace bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment create toxic work environments. They can have a crippling effect on the well-being and performance of many more employees than the victim or victims alone. Read on to discover the many pervasive impacts that these types of misconduct can have, before getting serious about upping your game in its prevention!
A Risk to Health and Well-being
Being a victim of workplace harassment—or even simply witnessing it—can generate problems that your employees carry all day at the office, and back home with them at the end of the working day. These impacts can be both psychological and physical, such as:
High blood pressure
When Performance Suffers Along With the Victim
It’s hardly surprising that when employees are grappling with these kinds of pressures, their work performance will also take a hit. Be aware that symptoms of workplace harassment can manifest detrimentally on employee productivity:
Victims and witnesses may struggle to concentrate
Victims may lose self-esteem
Victims and witnesses may have trouble with decision-making
Victims and witnesses may avoid excelling in order to avoid attention
Victims and witnesses may be reluctant to enter communal settings
Harassers may also underperform while distracted by their misconduct
Is Your Business Dropping the Ball?
Contemporary employers understand that happy employees are engaged employees—and minimizing the risk of workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and all forms of discrimination, is an important element of ensuring that teams remain at their most energized. However, the risk to companies that drop the ball on workplace harassment extend far further than productivity losses alone:
Increased sick leave, rehabilitation, and health insurance costs
Rapid turnover and associated recruitment and training costs
Reputational damage that impacts both recruitment and sales
Legal costs and risk of workers’ compensation claims
Eroded workplace culture making theft and other corporate crimes more likely
Turn the Tide With Corporate Investigations and Corporate Culture Audits
When someone makes a workplace harassment complaint, you can quickly and efficiently bring in a skilled investigator, reveal the truth of the matter, and get things back on track. However, what if this kind of misconduct is taking place under the radar? No employer is all-seeing and all-knowing. This makes a Corporate Culture Audit an immensely valuable resource to have in your toolkit.
This wellness check-up for your organization will take the lid off any and all issues that may be impacting your path towards prosperity—from workplace harassment to organizational silos, and many more besides. Lauth Investigations International draws on decades of experience within the corporate field, helping businesses forge a route towards excellence through effective investigative services. Learn more about Corporate Culture Audits, or contact our team today to discuss how we can support you best.
It might be easy to think, “that would never happen in my business,” but workplace harassment is an issue that traverses all industries, all working environments, and all sizes of organization. Ranging from workplace bullying, to sexual harassment, through to outright discrimination, this particular problem can be one of many faces, and the signs aren’t always obvious. Would you know which indicators to look out for?
But surely, if workplace harassment took place on your premises or within the teams under your command, someone would speak up—right? Sadly, research indicates that 75% of incidents go unreported. With these factors in mind, it is crucial to be familiar with a spectrum of signs that could let you know that a hostile workplace environment is beginning to take hold. So let’s dig into the facts. Read on as we reveal the red flags that can serve as signals that workplace harassment may be taking place, and what you can do about it.
What Is Workplace Harassment?
Because verbal and psychological workplace harassment don’t leave a mark or a trail, victims often feel uncomfortable and confused about whether reporting their experiences is a good idea, or even afraid of retaliation if they do. Of course, that fear becomes all the more palpable when physical or sexual harassment are taking place.
In terms of who may be impacted—or who may be the harasser—it’s important to remember that this type of interaction is not always relegated to superior/subordinate working relationships. Workplace harassment may cross teams, with the harasser working in a role above, below, or even unconnected to the victim. Particular forms of misconduct could include slurs, name-calling, offensive jokes, intimidation, insults, ridicule, or work disruption—and these may take place in person, or within the digital realm, otherwise known as “cyber bullying.”
The reality is that all forms of of workplace harassment are not only illegal, but also guaranteed to leave a sizable hole in your bottom line. When any form of harassment at work is tolerated, you can anticipate a drop in productivity and a surge in turnover as employees’ sense of safety and camaraderie is eroded. Not to mention, the very real risk of litigation will also be looming.
What Are the Signs of Workplace Harassment?
The most obvious indicator that some form of workplace bullying, discrimination, or sexual harassment may be taking place is of course a complaint. These should always be followed by immediate and strategic corporate investigations. However, when incidents go unreported, you can safeguard employees by remaining alert to the following signs:
Behavioral Changes If you notice a sudden change in an employee’s behavior—perhaps with them becoming more withdrawn and avoidant of corporate events or meetings—then a check-in is advisable.
Performance Changes An employee who starts missing deadlines, struggling to focus, or performing to a lower standard may be struggling with the burden of workplace harassment.
Atmosphere Changes While only one individual may be the direct victim of workplace harassment, the rest of your team may also be bearing the brunt of its occurrence. A disintegration in communication, rising tensions, and higher turnover may all be red flags.
Attendance Changes The experience of being harassed or witnessing harassment can be both stressful and traumatizing. This may lead a once-punctual employee to begin arriving late, missing important events, or increasingly calling in sick.
Corporate Investigation Services: Spotlighting the Truth of Your Suspicions
Workplace harassment is a sensitive issue that, when handled poorly, can have substantial legal ramifications for any business or organization. If you have received a complaint of workplace harassment or suspect that an incident may have taken place, turn to Lauth Investigations International for assistance. Our specialist corporate investigators offer expertise in revealing the truth through diligent, documented, and legally sound workplace investigations. If you are concerned that a larger pattern of misconduct or poor corporate culture may be evolving within your team, take proactive action with a Corporate Culture Audit. This health-check for your business will paint a clear picture of the current landscape, and deliver a clear roadmap for how to create an environment where workplace harassment is not welcome, and employees can flourish and succeed. Contact our team today to learn more.
We all like to think that every one of our employees or co-workers is guided by a strong moral compass and is conducting themselves accordingly. In some instances, we might even imagine that a little office banter with sexual undertones is harmless, but the reality is that when no clear line is drawn on what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, a slippery slope is often established in its place.
Sexual misconduct of any kind can lead to pervasive distress, loss of productivity, and ultimately loss of talent—as a toxic working environment leads precious innovators to look for healthier work environments elsewhere. Employers should also recognize that receiving one sexual harassment complaint may mean gaining oversight on what is ultimately only the tip of the iceberg.
The reality is that while 81% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, 58% of those who were harassed at work don’t file a complaint for fear of factors such as retaliation or disbelief. According to data gathered confidentially by Stop Street Harassment, as many of 43% of men have also experienced some sort of sexual harassment—so there’s no escaping that this is a problem that can impact anyone, and is ultimately one that we often don’t get a true sense of.
When it comes to receiving a formal complaint and gearing up ahead of investigating sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace, there’s a lot to navigate. On behalf of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator, responsibility in regard to physical and mental health, privacy, and legal rights all land in the hand of the employer. Meanwhile, for the organization itself, risk of retaliation, liability, and reputational damage hang in the balance. That makes what happens next something that must ready to stand up to scrutiny.
Turn to Corporate Investigations Services When Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
With so much at stake, investigating sexual harassment or misconduct means building a case that cannot be left open to any perception of bias. If a complaint should evolve towards litigation, an employer’s failure to fully undertake and document an impartial corporate investigation, or it’s failure to act decisively upon any complaint received may well end in liability. Information gathered might later become admissible in court proceedings, while a poorly judged step may damage the credibility of evidence. This makes turning to an external investigator the best way to safeguard the interests of both the organization and the individuals involved.
Hiring a private investigator with a proven track record for corporate investigations of this nature also means lifting the emotional burden of investigating a colleague—under what may be distressing circumstances—from your HR or leadership team. A professional who is seasoned at investigating sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace will not only be adept at discreetly and efficiently gathering the information necessary, but they will also be able to advise on every investigatory and reporting step from a legal standpoint, guaranteeing due process and exemplary action along the way.
The Opportunity to Be an Industry Leader in the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
While the occurrence of a sexual misconduct complaint may well leave any organization anxious about what lies ahead, choosing to step ahead of this issue is an action that can only be rewarded. Since the #metoo movement arrived, attitudes towards sexual harassment in the workplace have evolved, with 99% of employees successfully recognizing sexual harassment situations, and the vast majority supporting the fight against this type of workplace misconduct.
While this new era has created an environment in which many feel more able to speak up, statistics tell us that it is also in fact driving down incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace, with EEOC actually reporting a drop from 2020 to 2021. This tells us that setting clear policies and demonstrating a safe environment for employees is a worthy pursuit. Of course, this is a transformation still in its inception—HRAcuity reports that only 15% of companies are on the case. Are you ready to establish your brand as one who lives by values that everyone can believe in?
Alongside outlining clear and easily understood company policies and delivering training across every employee tear, organizations are increasingly turning to corporate culture audits as a health-check for issues ranging from sexual harassment to discrimination, and even corporate theft and white collar crime. Taking this proactive step means getting ahead of problems before they manifest into costly or damaging incidents that warrant corporate investigations, litigation, or substantial losses. Better yet, it means forging and sustaining a thriving workplace environment in which employees can grow, flourish, and drive the bottom line. If you’d like to learn more about corporate investigation services in relation to sexual harassment in the workplace—or the phenomenal results that corporate culture audits can yield—the team at Lauth Investigations are ready to take your call.