Our employer has an ethical and legal obligation to take sexual harassment claims seriously and investigate the charges thoroughly. Unfortunately, 39% of employees do not report sexual harassment in the workplace for fear that management will not handle the claim effectively. Your employer should take all sexual harassment complaints seriously and follow these steps to ensure that they are handling the claim in an appropriate manner.
1. Hire a Lawyer
Employers should hire legal counsel. Sexual harassment claims can lead to substantial monetary settlements and serious liability.
2. Notify the Board of Directors
The board of directors should be notified. It is important that they hear it from management, instead of from the news.
3. Treat the Complainant with Dignity and Respect
As shown above, over one-third of employees will not report incidents of sexual harassment for fear of retaliation or that the claim will not be handled in an appropriate manner. You should be treated with dignity, respect, and understanding. An employer’s behavior will be seen by the other employees of the company and will send a message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
4. Begin an Investigation
Along with advice from legal counsel, a plan should be started to develop and start an investigation. Interviewing all appropriate parties, reviewing evidence such as emails or communications, and determining if the investigation needs to be broadened are all first steps. The final determination regarding actions to be taken, including training and/or discipline and a final report should be reviewed by legal counsel to ensure that the company is following all legal requirements.
5. Conduct During an Investigation
During an investigation, a company will have to determine if the alleged wrongdoer needs to be placed on paid or unpaid leave, or whether to give the complainant paid time off during the investigation. Another option would be to alternate work schedules so that the two parties have no contact with each other.
6. Anti-Harassment Policy
If during the investigation it is determined that the company does not have a specific anti-harassment policy in writing, one should be created.
7. Government Agency Cooperation
The complainant may have gone to the EEOC or other government agency and filed a complaint as well. An employer should always cooperate with these agencies regarding the sexual harassment claim.
If a complainant is threatening litigation, there may be instances where arbitration could be appropriate.
9. Never Retaliate
If an employer in any way retaliates against the complainant, they may be facing a discrimination lawsuit as well. An employer should never terminate, demote, change responsibilities, give disciplinary action, transfer to a less desirable location, reduce compensation or benefits, isolate, make the work more difficult, or threaten an employee who has filed a sexual harassment claim.
Contact an Experienced Employment Attorney
If you were a victim of sexual harassment, notified your employer, and they did not take these proactive steps to investigate your claim and treat you fairly, contact the California Employment Counsel, APC.
If you were discriminated in any way after filing a sexual harassment claim, or if your employer refuses to take action on your sexual harassment report, contact one of our attorneys today. Our experienced sexual harassment attorneys offer a free consultation to discuss your case of sexual harassment in the workplace. Contact us online or call (714) 462-8376 to discuss your legal rights.