How to Perform a Proper Sexual Harassment Investigation

Recently, a lot has come to light concerning sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and the media. What this means in the workplace and for those like Suzzanne Uhland who work with the law is that they should know the proper way to handle a sexual harassment investigation to ensure everyone’s rights are protected and respected. While some actions might be taken out of context, others can be genuine cases that require a legal and prompt response.

sexual harassment investigation

Take Immediate Action

Time is always of the essence when it comes to legal matters. For that reason, sexual harassment cases should be investigated as soon as they are reported. Sometimes, employees are told to get in touch with someone else with their case, but doing so can make the employee feel as if she or he is not being taken seriously, and the situation could worsen in the meantime. Employees should be pointed in the right direction, and there should be a follow-up to make sure things are in motion.

Supervisors and Managers Should Be Well-Trained

All managers and supervisors should be thoroughly trained on how to handle sexual harassment and abuse allegations. Not only should they know which members of the HR team to direct employees to, they should also know how to spot signs of sexual harassment to help provide a safe workspace. A lack of training could result in cases not being properly investigated, and that’s if they’re investigated at all, which could ultimately result in a lawsuit for employees who feel their voices aren’t being heard.

Document Everything

Proper documentation is vital to anything even remotely pertaining to the law, but especially so when it comes to matters as serious as sexual harassment. There’s also the fact that there are often two sides of the story with such matters. Specific documents to keep include witness statements, manager/supervisor memos, formal warnings and complaints, court filings and notices of dismissal. It’s always best to assume everything will be scrutinized and picked through.

Remain Up-to-Date on EEOC Guidelines

HR and employees in positions related to the law should remain up-to-date on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines so they know exactly how to proceed and do so correctly. Such guidelines are set in place to make sure companies know what measures to take during a sexual harassment investigation, credibility determinations and what questions to ask everyone involved in the case. Following outdated guidelines and advice could leave gaps in an investigation, slow the proceedings or render certain information and documentation invalid.

Consider Legal Assistance

While some sexual harassment cases are simple, others can leave companies feeling in over their heads. When such cases arise, it’s best to enlist the help of experienced legal professionals who have an extensive background in sexual harassment investigations. Looking outside the company for help could be necessary for a smaller company that doesn’t have in-house lawyers. And even if a company does have lawyers on their payroll, it still might be necessary to bring in a legal specialist.

Ask the Right Questions

While interviewing the alleged victim and the alleged harasser, it’s vital to ask the right questions. For the victim, she or he should be asked:

  • How did the harassment make you feel?
  • How did you react?
  • What was your response to the situation and afterward?
  • Did anyone else witness the situation?

The alleged harasser should be asked:

  • How do you respond to the allegation?
  • Does the alleged victim have any other reason to make this claim?
  • Is this the first time someone has made this type of claim against you?
  • Did anyone else witness the situation?

Knowing the right steps to take during a sexual harassment investigation makes all the difference in the world. Such allegations and situations should be taken seriously to foster a safe and fair workplace.