Part of being a leader at your business is tackling tough problems, especially ones that could lead to legal consequences. If you have an employee who makes a sexual harassment claim against their manager or another employee, that’s a problem you have to take very seriously. Yet you may feel uncertain about what steps you need to take. How do you investigate a sexual harassment claim? Or defend against a sexual harassment lawsuit from an employee?
When your company faces a sexual harassment claim
One of the first steps you need to take if your company faces a sexual harassment claim from an employee is to start an investigation about the claim. As part of that investigation, you should:
- Find an independent third-party who can complete the investigation.
- Take steps to protect the employee who reported the harassment, maybe assigning them to a new department or a new desk to avoid the alleged harasser.
- Have the third-party review your company sexual harassment policy.
- Have the third-party review any documentation your employee has about the harassment.
- Have the third-party interview any witnesses to the harassment.
- Consult an attorney familiar with employment law, especially if you and the third-party feel uncertain the harassment occurred. You want to get an attorney’s advice about how to proceed to minimize the risk of facing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
- Ensure the employee who reported the harassment doesn’t face any retaliation. You need to treat the employee who made the sexual harassment claim as if they never made a claim. You need to let other employees know you expect them to do the same and expect them to follow company sexual harassment policies. Retaliating against an employee who makes a harassment claim is illegal.
Possible defenses in a sexual harassment suit
If your company ends up facing a lawsuit over sexual harassment, you will need good documentation about the investigation you completed and any corrective action you took. If you feel your employee has made a false harassment claim, you will need to provide sufficient evidence your employee’s allegations didn’t occur. Your attorney can help show how the conduct alleged didn’t break the law or violate your company policies if that’s the case.
Your company doesn’t only face potentially having to pay out thousands of dollars in a sexual harassment lawsuit after a claim. You also can damage your reputation, making it more difficult to find good employees in the future and impacting your ability to keep and attract important customers or clients. That’s why taking any sexual harassment claim seriously and working with an attorney to resolve a complaint is so important.