• Dean Smith

Harassment Complaints: How to Properly and Proactively Initiate an Investigation

It is no secret that companies should have clear and concise anti-harassment policies and procedures available to employees should they ever need it. When the time comes to address complaints however, what tends to get lost is the importance of proactively and properly initiating an investigation in order to take appropriate action. There may be a small window available to avoid a lawsuit, and ICU Investigations’ experience in handling and investigating harassment claims is paramount with delicate matters such as this.

We have compiled a short list of important practices for your review:

1. Implement Training

Training protocols for all managers/supervisors to identify harassment, discrimination, retaliation, etc. should be implemented regularly. Management’s ability to identify and respond to issues that arise in the workplace, and reporting said issues to the proper channels, could eliminate further action if handled promptly and appropriately with a resolution to the conflict.

2. Respond to Complaints Diligently and Contact Professionals if None are Employed In-House

If reports are received alleging harassment, discrimination, retaliation, etc., the next step is to respond and enlist the help of an investigator. Choosing an investigator with experience as well as the ability to remain objective is key. Furthermore, it is helpful for the alleged victim to provide a written statement/complaint so as to secure details such as the date/time/place of the incident, identify who was involved and any additional witnesses, details of the nature of the incident, etc.

3. Conduct Interviews (Alleged Victim, Alleged Harasser, Alleged Witnesses, etc.)

An investigator with extensive experience in harassment claims, as well as with interviewing skills, will play a crucial role in the investigation as a whole. The alleged victim, the alleged harasser, and any alleged witnesses will need to provide a recorded statement. The investigator will then review all evidence collected, provide transcriptions, and compile a report in order to accurately and objectively reach a conclusion and provide a recommendation.

4. Swift Action

Once the investigation has been completed and the investigator has made their recommendation based on all evidence collected, it is then back in management’s hands for any action that may need to be taken. It is advised that this decision be made only after a thorough investigation has been completed.

5. Accurate Documentation

Lastly, it is imperative that every action is thoroughly documented, from the date the original complaint was received or an incident was witnessed, to what action was ultimately taken and why. This step will be helpful, as the employer may be required to provide all of the information should a lawsuit/trial ensue.

The ultimate goal is to handle matters proactive and professionally, which could eliminate a potential lawsuit altogether. Implementing these 5 steps will help cultivate a safe work environment where harassment and other detrimental behavior will not be tolerated, but will also aid in the investigative process and resolving should issues arise.

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