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Steps to take when an employee makes a hostile work environment claim

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination

A hostile work environment creates a liability issue for employers. Federal laws protect against a wide range of discriminatory, harassing and hostile actions in the workplace and provide protections for employees who report these instances.

As an employer, you must handle hostile work environment complaints properly to protect your employees and comply with the law.

Document everything

The most important thing an employer can do in the face of a hostile work environment claim is to document everything. Document the complaint itself, gather statements from any witnesses or other involved parties and create copies of everything to illustrate proper investigative efforts and response.

Appoint an independent investigator

Your first instinct might be to launch the investigation yourself. Avoid any implications of impropriety or preferential treatment by retaining an independent investigator to assess and evaluate the claim.

Support your employee

Talk with the affected employee right away to see how you can support them. This might include things like approving vacation days or PTO, reassigning them to a different area or adjusting their reporting structure.

Take action on substantiated claims

When an independent investigation shows a claim with merit, take action to discipline the responsible individual. Discipline will vary based on the infraction but can range from reassignment and sensitivity training to termination.

Show your employees that you support them by protecting them from hostility and harassment. Proactive response to complaints with an independent investigator ensures an unbiased assessment of the situation. Offering support to the employee and responding immediately to substantiated claims creates an environment of compassion and safety for your workforce.