Addressing internal matters involving employee interactions, including harassment, are an essential responsibility for employers. Employers must handle these issues effectively; avoiding the following mistakes could be enough to resolve these issues fairly and efficiently.
Do not ignore the complaint
Whether your initial reaction is to believe the complainant or not, it is vital to take every report of harassment seriously. No matter what you suspect about the person filing the report or the person accused of misconduct, it can be crucial that you treat everyone with respect.
Do not put off an investigation
After receiving a harassment complaint, failing to conduct an investigation can send the message that you do not care or take the situation seriously. Further, the longer you wait to look into the matter, the less accurate your evidence may be.
Over time, memories fade, and information disappears. Thus, it is generally best to conduct a thorough investigation right away. You should evaluate in each instance whether the investigation should be conducted in-house or by hiring an outside investigator. Either way, the person conducting the investigation should have experience dealing with these types of HR matters.
Do not punish the victim for reporting harassment
Punishing someone for reporting harassment can trigger retaliation claims against an employer, so it is vital to avoid firing or otherwise penalizing a person for making a complaint.
It can also be a mistake to do anything that causes embarrassment or further adverse treatment of the alleged victim. Refrain from getting mad at the person filing the report, even if you are not sure about the veracity of their claim. Instead, be respectful and appropriately discreet.
Do not ignore your own guidelines
Employers should have policies addressing workplace harassment, including what the process entails and what employers commit to doing after receiving a complaint. Sticking to the guidelines in these documents can help employers be consistent and fair in their response to harassment reports.
Comply with what your policy says when it comes to:
- Assigning someone to investigate
- Expected timelines
- Addressing confidentiality
- Corrective actions
- Updating parties on the status of an investigation
Avoiding these common mistakes after an employee reports harassment can help employers navigate these claims effectively and without infringing on their employees’ rights.