We have occasional reports of what is claimed to be sexual harassment, and we investigate, which is disruptive and time-consuming. Most of the time, it turns out to be just a boundary violation and really isn't severe or pervasive, but we recently had a report of obviously egregious behavior. Can't we just terminate the accused and skip the investigation?
It is important to have a sexual harassment prevention policy and practice that is consistent and shows your commitment to a harassment-free workplace. And, bear in mind that some states have a definition of harassment that does not require the unwelcomed behavior to be severe or pervasive.
Every report should be investigated and not pre-judged. Sometimes a victim will report only the bare minimum of facts to get the initial attention of management, only to reveal additional incidents of harassment when questioned by an investigator.
Some investigations will take longer than others, but each one should be thorough, prompt, and objective. Responding to each report in this way helps create a defense for you, should there be a harassment issue in your workplace. Investigate, find the facts, take corrective action on those facts, and protect those who participated in the investigation from retaliation.
Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.
If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to email@example.com. Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.