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.
We offer both comprehensive support for handling harassment complaints, and Corporate Culture Audits—helping you ensure that your workplace is toxic only to misconduct! If you are ready to learn more, contact our team to discuss your needs.