When is the best time to confront someone about complaints of sexual harassment? NOW!
When you are confronted with a situation where one employee has accused another of sexual harassment, do you know what to do? If you handle a complaint of sexual harassment incorrectly, it can cost your company a great deal of money and may cost you’re your job. Every supervisor must know what to do if an employee comes to you with any type of sexual harassment complaint.
Step 1: All complaints of sexual harassment must be taken seriously. If necessary, contact your HR representative for technical advice as to what the procedures are in your company and what actions to take next.
Step 2: Actively listen to the alleged victim/employee, take good notes and document what is said. Remember; do not make any judgments until you have spoken to both parties. You must be fully receptive to the employee and still be able to listen to the alleged harasser’s version of the events later. Discuss the event with the alleged victim in a private setting.
Step 3: Make a record of the conversation and ask the alleged victim/employee to sign the report. If the employee refuses to sign the report, make a note of that on the document and also make a note that the report was read and understood by the employee. After you get the facts from the employee, discuss the information with your supervisor so they are aware of the situation.
Step 4: Next, you must privately discuss the complaint with the alleged harasser and discuss with them your company’s policy regarding sexual harassment. Discuss the following points: the definition of sexual harassment, the nature of the complaint, state clearly and without question what behavior was unacceptable and what will happen if the behavior is repeated. Include in your discussion that acts of retaliation are not allowed and will be taken seriously.
Step 5: Document the discussion and ask the alleged harasser to sign the document. If they refuse to sign the report, note that on the report, note that the report was read and its contents were understood by the alleged harasser. Make sure they comprehend the seriousness of the complaint.
Step 6: If possible, arrange a meeting with the involved employees and discuss the situation together. You need to make sure there is an equal level of understanding between the employees and explain that the discussion must bring a close to the issue. It is your responsibility to make sure both parties feel the matter is resolved satisfactorily.
Step 7: Within a week or a couple of weeks, privately talk to the employees again and ensure that the issue is resolved and no retaliation has taken place. Share any new information with your supervisor so they are “up to speed” about the situation.
The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as, “…unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individuals work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.