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Effectively investigating a harassment allegation

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | sexual harassment

Anytime a California employer is informed of alleged harassment, an investigation should soon follow. If you’re responsible for that investigation, it’s important that you follow through and gather evidence before determining how to respond to the allegations. By conducting a thorough investigation, you can protect everyone involved and ensure that your company doesn’t face legal issues for failing to take the allegations seriously.

Gathering evidence

When investigating an allegation of harassment, it’s important to gather evidence. You should talk to the accuser, the accused and witnesses. If you wish to perform a more formal investigation, which may be required by your company, getting signed statements from everyone involved is beneficial. It’s important to remain neutral when speaking to anyone who is involved or who may have witnessed the alleged incident.

Other evidence, like texts, emails and other documentation, can help you determine what happened. Be sure that you’re aware of your company’s policies when it comes to keeping records of alleged harassment. Some may require these records to be kept for a certain number of years in case the accuser decides to pursue legal action in the future.

Remain neutral and confidential

Confidentiality is important when investigating an allegation of harassment. You may be required to involve the HR department, but you should not share information about the allegations or investigation with other employees unless it’s required to complete the investigation. When interviewing witnesses, be sure to remain neutral and ask open-ended questions without revealing unnecessary information about the person claiming harassment.

When you act as the investigator, you should be thorough, even if the allegation seems unlikely to be true. When speaking with those involved, refrain from accusations, threats or retaliation. Retaliating against an employee after an accusation of discrimination or harassment is unlawful. Once you’ve completed your investigation, share your conclusions with the proper authority so that action can be taken if needed.

Seek legal advice

Most companies take accusations of harassment very seriously as ignoring these issues can create legal troubles. Each allegation should be fully investigated to determine what really happened. Those who are tasked with investigating an allegation of harassment may have questions about how best to proceed forward with the process of how to legally deal with the issues at hand. If you’re an employer with questions or concerns about resolving an allegation of harassment, you can benefit from speaking with someone who is knowledgeable of California’s employment laws.