Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are serious matters for all involved, including the business that it may have occurred at. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how a business should respond when an employee says he or she has been sexually harassed or discriminated against. However, the response a business makes to these allegations can affect the view employees have of the business as well as the business’ liability. That is why it is important to know some of the best steps to consider taking in response to sexual harassment or discrimination allegations.
First steps following sexual harassment or discrimination allegations
From the moment an employee makes a complaint and throughout the entire process, it is important that your business responds with respect. Thank the employee for raising the concern, and take the concern seriously.
One of the first steps to take after an employee has alleged sexual harassment or discrimination is to make sure all the of the right entities are notified. This includes notifying the board of directors, reaching out to a lawyer and filing a claim to the company’s insurance carrier.
You will also want to make sure relevant documents are handled appropriately. This includes ensuring all documents pertaining to the claims are kept preserved. Because all documents related to the claims could be used in litigation, it is also important to be careful with the content of texts and emails regarding how the company will handle the claims. In some cases, these correspondences could be used against your business during litigation.
Ongoing actions to show the concern is taken seriously
Prohibit acts of retaliation against the employee, such as transferring the employee to a less desirable location, making the employee’s work more difficult, giving an unfairly negative performance evaluation or excluding the employee from company activities.
Make sure the complaint is thoroughly investigated in a timely manner. The investigation should be conducted by a neutral person with appropriate training and experience.
You should also take appropriate action to separate the accuser from the accused both during and after the investigation. This can include putting the alleged harasser on leave during the investigation, allowing the employee who made the complaint to take paid time off during the investigation or changing the work assignments so the two parties involved in the complaint do not work together.
Your business should already have anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, but when there are allegations that harassment or discrimination has occurred, it is a good idea to review those documents and ensure they are well-written and have been effectively communicated to the employees. If your business does not have these policies in place it is important to adopt them.
Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are bad for employees and are bad for business. That is why it is important to take these kinds of accusations seriously, responding with both respect and effective actions.