Employers have an obligation under the law to protect workers from illegal activity in the workplace. This includes taking preventative measures to lessen the likelihood of sexual harassment on the job and having effective measures to investigate and address complaints about harassment. Workers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area may want to ensure that they know what their employers must do when faced with this type of scenario.
First, employers should have policies in place that detail how claims of harassment will be investigated and how it will be addressed if an investigation finds evidence to support the claims. Employers should also ensure that employees understand their options for filing a complaint, and employers should provide more than one office or individual to report complaints. Employers should also ensure that all employees, including executives and managers, receive training on what harassment is, why it is illegal, and how to report it. After a complaint is made, an employer should follow company policy regarding the investigation as soon as possible and discuss the matter with the complainant to obtain needed details and to reassure the worker that he or she did the right thing by filing a complaint.
The employer should also tell the accused individual about the complaint and that an investigation is underway. Depending upon the circumstances, the employer should not disclose the identity of the complainant(s) to the accused individual, unless it will be obvious from the nature of the complaint who made the complaint. Regardless, the employer should make clear to the accused individual that he or she should not retaliate against the complainant or other witnesses.
Interviewing the complainant, witnesses, the accused person, and other individuals who could provide relevant information is important. Once the employer obtains as much information as possible about the incident or incidents in question, measures should be taken to address the reports that are appropriate for the results of the investigation.
Unfortunately, not all employers will take these and other steps needed to thoroughly review a complaint about sexual harassment. If workers in the Washington, D.C. area file this type of complaint and see no measures taken to address it, or their employer claims that nothing wrong happened, they may feel without hope. However, if an employer does not investigate the matter, or attempts to cover-up the problem, the situation does not have to end there. Victims of workplace harassment can take additional steps, including legal action, to ensure that their workplace problems are properly addressed.