When an employee comes to us with a harassment complaint, it’s important that we handle the complaint correctly, both for the sake of the employee and the company. Whether your team is working in the office or working remotely, harassment complaints are still something to take seriously. Harassment compromises the safety of an employee, whether it is in a remote environment or not, and creates significant risk for your company.
There are a few key components to properly handling harassment complaints when they arise.
Responding to complaints quickly is essential for finding out what happened and handling it in an appropriate manner. To keep our workplaces free of harassment and safe for employees, we must take all complaints seriously and investigate them in a timely manner. In fact, failing to do so can increase your legal liability in a situation.
Don’t sit on a report of an incident before responding. Within 48 hours of the complaint being made, communicate with the employee who has made the complaint. Acknowledge their complaint, talk with them about it, and let them know what your next steps are as a company and when they can expect to hear back from you. From there, continue to conduct the investigation in a timely manner.
Along with a prompt response, an investigation should be conducted in accordance with your company’s harassment policy and reporting guidelines. If your company doesn’t have a harassment policy, reach out to WhyHR for help in writing one. Nearly every company will receive a harassment complaint at some point, and you have an obligation to keep your workers safe and the workplace free of harassment. Once you have a policy, it is important that your employees know the policy and follow it when incidents are reported. Confidentiality is a crucial part of conducting harassment investigations for the sake of all involved.
Contact the right people
After any reported incident, make sure you contact the right people to help lead the investigation. In some cases, this includes both the HR department and the legal department, or the people contracted for those services. In other cases, it may just be the HR department. If you are a small business and do not have an in-house HR team or a contract with an HR company, bring one in as quickly as possible. The expertise and professionalism of HR and legal teams can help limit any further harm to the employee, create an environment where harassment is not tolerated in the future, and ultimately protect your company from legal liability.
Think about culture
How you handle a harassment complaint speaks volumes of your culture as a company. All too often companies don’t handle them appropriately and thus create a toxic workplace culture for their employees. You want to create a culture where employees feel safe and know that any issues will be handled appropriately, whether they’re working in person or remotely. By responding quickly, following procedure, and involving the right people, you can create a positive and supportive workplace culture where harassment is not tolerated. Creating that type of culture benefits both your company and your employees.
If you have any questions on how to handle a harassment complaint, WhyHR can help you create policies, conduct investigations, and resolve situations that may arise.