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Investigating a sexual harassment complaint

When you run a business, you often find yourself having to handle tasks you’ve never encountered before. More than likely, especially if your business in the tech field, you will have to investigate a sexual harassment complaint at some point. Unfortunately, according to a 2020 survey, more than 48% of women who are tech employees have experienced harassment at work.

If you want a strong, inclusive workplace, with a good reputation, you want to ensure you take any sexual harassment complaints seriously. So, when a female (or male) employee makes a sexual harassment complaint, you need to know how to conduct a proper investigation.

Here are nine steps to follow when investigating a sexual harassment complaint:

  1. Talk with the employee who made the complaint, making sure they understand you will take their complaint seriously and they won’t suffer any retaliation because they made a harassment complaint.
  2. Reassign the employee to a different manager or different department if necessary, or find a way to limit their interaction with the alleged harasser.
  3. Choose someone to handle the investigation. This could be you, your human resources representative, a manager (if that person isn’t involved) or someone else involved in your company management.
  4. Let the person accused of sexual harassment know there has been a complaint against them and the company intends to complete a fair investigation.
  5. Decide who to interview about this sexual harassment complaint and gather evidence (emails, texts, etc.) about the harassment.
  6. Review the evidence and decide if you need to take action and what action you may need to take.
  7. Consult an attorney to ensure you are evaluating the situation fairly and get their advice on what action to take.
  8. If you decide the sexual harassment has occurred, take the appropriate action. You want to let the employee who made the complaint know what action you will take and let the harasser know the consequences they face. If you determine no harassment occurred, you need to let both parties know that. Keep documentation about the action you are taking.
  9. Follow-up to make sure the employee who made the complaint is no longer experiencing harassment and document any further harassment issues.

You have to be proactive when an employee makes a sexual harassment complaint. If you aren’t, you could face a costly lawsuit down the road and damage your company’s reputation. You want to do your best to show employees that you care about enforcing your company harassment policies and keeping your workplace fair to all employees.