Sexual Harrassment investigation

Does anyone have any suggestions for possible actions that may or may not be taken in a sexual harrassment case that is strictly "she said/he said?" Our options may include department transfer for the alleged victim, but not likely a transfer for the accused because of available job openings. What have you done in similar circumstances? Thanks.


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  • The most concise response I could offer (w/o knowing all the facts) would be to ask the victim what he/she would like to have done. This is very important if the allegation goes outside your organization. If you've determined that your policy has been violated, then the remedy is critical. If the victim prefers to transfer, I would give that considerable weight. If the request is for the harasser to transfer, I would also look at that carefully. Courts and juries are sensitive to the victim being punished twice........and forcing that person to transfer may constitute insensitivity on your part.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-14-01 AT 02:42PM (CST)[/font][p]I assume that you resolved the issue of credibility of the "he said/she said" in favor of the victim and you decided that the allegation was true and that the act constituted some form of sexual harassment.

    Depending on the nature of the incident, you should counsel, discipline or discharge. Asking the "victim" how she wants to inter-relate with the offender is fine, but even if she says "no problem" it doesn't get you off the hook for controlling future possibilities. You can give instructions to the offender not to be in contact with the employee or to be in other employee's work area. You can indicate that if there is a need to be involved with the employee in work matters, the offender must inform the supervisor first and get permission or cleared to approach the other employee. That's why knowing exactly what was done and what you decided is important in handling what you need to tell the offender.

    You also may want to give some "sensitivty training" or "sexual harassment training" to the offender and any other employee you feel would be helped by it (if you don't give it for all).
  • If there has been no guilt or innocence established, don't you have to be careful about moving anyone?
  • If there is no corroboration one way or the other, you need to note in your investigation documentation that you could not substantiate the harassee's complaint nor the harasser's guilt. Ask the harassee if there were any witnesses. If not, I would meet with the harassee and tell him/her that you cannot find any other evidence and that you have never received a complaint on this individual before from any one else. (I'm assuming that's true.) Tell him/her that the company takes these charges very seriously and will not tolerate anyone being sexually harassed. You have reviewed with the alleged harasser what constitutes harassment and he/she is aware of the company policy prohibiting such behavior. Assure the harassee that if he/she has any further problems with the harasser, to report it immediately and you will launch another investigation. Then meet with the alleged harasser and tell him/her that you cannot determine what the truth is in this matter. Tell them you are closing the investigation, that this is the end of this matter as far as the company is concerned. However, if you were to receive another complaint, you would again investigate. If it involves another employee besides the current harassee, it makes the harassee's complaint more believeable and the company would have to make a determination from the evidence before it. If the harasser is indeed doing what the harassee complains about, it will surface again. If the two don't report to each other, tell them to stay away from each other to minimize contact.

    Hope this helps. Call me if you have any questions at 615-371-8200.

    Margaret Morford
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-15-01 AT 07:07PM (CST)[/font][p]I don't disagree with you in most detail. But notice what we are really saying in these types of unsubstantiated incidents to the alleged harasser, "well, we don't know that it occurred or not since it's striclty "he said -- she said" and both are credible to their accounts. Yet, we PRESUME that the harassment did occur but we can't prove it. Why? Because we go about warning the alleged harasser "here's our policy; be aware of it; if you violate it, you'll be disciplined or discharged." We don't give the alleged "victim" any notice that "we have a anti-sexual harassment policy that includes disciplining or discharging harassers. Unfortunately we couldn't establish that the incident occurred. Now our policy also says that it is a violation to intentionally make false accusations of sexual harassment. So be aware of that because intentionally making false accusations also can result in discipline or discharge."

    The general feeling is that approach chills the interest of employees to report incidents when they occur. But the reality is that we are saying, usually to the male employee, "well, we didn't get you now so consider yourself lucky and don't do it again" despite his claim of "innocent."

    Do employers regularly tell the alleged victim intentionlly making false reports is a violation? NO. There is a presumption the report is true because it's better "to play it safe than sorry" but the problem is the employer can't prove it. Thus the onus still falls on the alleged harasser, even though he has claimed innocence and there is no basis in fact not to believe him.
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