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<!–:en–>CHECKLIST FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT INVESTIGATIONS<!–:–>

October 2, 2011

As you may know, both federal and state laws generally make employers responsible for sexual harassment in the workplace. To reduce any potential liability, an employer needs to promptly investigate all employee harassment complaints as well as any harassment information provided from other sources. The following is a checklist to help with organizing and conducting any workplace investigation. 10-02-2011.

  Maintain confidentiality regarding the allegedly harassed employee, the witnesses, and the alleged harasser. Explain, however, that their testimony may be necessary if legal proceedings result.
  Provide a written memo to all parties including the complainant, witnesses as well at the alleged harasser of the complaint received and investigation to be conducted. Along with the memo, provide a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy and any related policies or memorandum.
  Without getting into any details regarding the investigation, make sure any manager or supervisory staff, involved with the complaint or responsible for supervising anyone involved in the complaint, is very familiar with the company’s sexual harassment policy as well as the anti-retaliation policy.
  Privately interview the employee, alleged harasser and any witnesses regarding the complaint received.(a)   Assure the employee & witnesses that the company’s anti-retaliation policy will protect them; assure the alleged harasser that you have not yet reached a conclusion.

(b)  Ask neutral open-ended questions that will encourage interviewees to share facts rather than opinions.

(c)   Establish the “who, what, where, when, why and how” related to the complaint.

(d)  Document each interview in writing.

(e)   Review your notes with each interviewee before concluding the interview to correct any errors or misunderstandings

(f)   When possible, obtain written – or at least initialed – statements from interviewees.

(g)  Encourage all interviewees to follow up with you about any additional information they might remember or come across.

  Review all related documents, such as communications between the employee and alleged harasser and any evidence of the complaints by the employee.
  Communicate your finding in a confidential manner to the employee (complainant) and alleged harasser (as well as other interested parties, such as their supervisors) and provide them with the opportunity to respond.
  Document the investigation and prepare a written report that includes your conclusions about whether any company policy or federal or state laws have been violated.
  Document your findings in the personnel files of both parties.
  If the complaint is found to be valid, take immediate action against the harasser, according to your disciplinary policy. The severity of the discipline should correspond to the severity of the harassment. To avoid wrongful termination claims, however, always consult with your labor attorney before terminating the harasser.
  Take steps to see that no additional harassment or retaliation occurs against the complaining employee or any employee who participated in the investigation. For this, it may be a good idea to remind any manager or supervisor involved of the company’s anti-retaliation policy.