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.