These days we are swamped regularly by allegations and confirmations of sexual harassment in many industries—entertainment, media, technology, politics, etc.
Complaints or proof of harassment or discrimination can impact greatly a company’s reputation, employee enthusiasm, business disruption, the extent of legal exposure, length of controversy, and costs sustained.
Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy
Your organization needs thorough and well-written anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. They are sometimes required by some state laws and frequently useful if legal action comes up.
Helpful policies are often several pages long. You can have one developed for your business by an HR consultants or experienced employment lawyer. If you create one internally, be sure to review it and re-review it for thoroughness – and even then have legal counsel review it.
A sound policy usually includes:
- Definitions of sexual and other types of harassment or discrimination
- Examples of conduct representing banned harassment
- A firm statement signifying zero tolerance of any forms of workplace discrimination, harassment, violence or bullying
- Rights of the employees to make a complaint about harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and to whom such complaints should be made
- Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of complaints and the complainant to the extent possible
- Strong prohibitions on any retaliatory conduct
- The company’s policy to investigate claims
- The disciplinary actions that may be taken if it is determined that the policy has been violated
- Federal and State measures to which the employee has access.
Preferably an organization should communicate the policy each year to every employee with a message explaining its importance and the requirement to obey the terms.
Even though 72% do not report complaints, how should a company react to a complaint of harassment or discrimination?
Immediately and extensively follow up every sexual harassment or discrimination complaint
Each organization must rapidly explore a sexual harassment or discrimination grievance – including those which may first look as if they have no merit. Failing to consider a complaint as genuine can worsen the problem and increase the legal responsibility of the company.
Trained personnel with experience, who are impartial and neutral, should perform follow-up inquiries after a complaint is made. Companies ought to seek out legal guidance on difficult matters of evidence or credibility which could be uncovered as part of the inquiry.
A business should prepare an analysis plan with an experienced employment attorney for thoroughly conducting an examination on the facts of the complaint outlining:
- Appropriate scope of the investigation
- Interviews with the complaining party
- Questioning the accused employee
- Discussions with other employees and third parties with relevant information
- Examination of memos, emails, and other pertinent exchanges
- Analysis of personnel files of the parties (including any previous disciplinary write-ups)
- Methods for deciding trustworthiness in any incompatible reports
- Determination if the initial scope of the investigation is correct or needs adjustment
- Actions implemented responding to the issues described, such as discipline, training etc. – all of which must be explicitly recorded
- The form of any report that should result
Above all, impartiality, thoroughness and confidentiality are essential. The inquiry must be unbiased, and not only be impartial, but also appear that way to all involved parties.
There are many other sources of information on this important subject. Be sure to check out the U.S. EEOC’s own useful information on workplace harassment investigations.
The Association of Workplace Investigators offers their set of supportive opinion in The Guiding Principles for Conducting Workplace Investigations
Flexicrew Staffing promotes an environment where employees are respected & valued and ensures the business is harassment and violence-free. If your company needs assistance with your workplace staffing and recruiting needs, please contact your local Flexicrew branch Today!