Take a Proactive Stand Against Harassment

It's probably impossible for your company to eliminate any chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee.


Above all, you must have a sound company policy against harassment, which includes discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability. Some important steps:

In some cases, you must be proactive. In one case, the EEOC said if there is sexually or racially offensive graffiti in the workplace, a company shouldn't wait for a complaint before erasing it.

To protect your company after a harassment complaint, here's a checklist of eight steps to take to help conduct a thorough investigation:

___  Listen to the complaint but stay neutral and don't validate the accusation.

___  Take down a statement in writing and ask the employee to initial it for accuracy.

___  Assure the employee that you will take action.

___  Discuss the problem with legal counsel.

___  Meet with key individuals and investigate the complaint (or hand the inquiry over to a neutral third party).

___  Don't confine the investigation to the single incident. For example, does the alleged harasser have a history of similar behavior?

___  Take appropriate action if you determine harassment did take place, including a warning, disciplinary action, demotion, transfer or dismissal. Carefully document your findings.

___  Institute additional training if your investigation uncovers a pattern of harassment or ignorance about the subject.

Even after conducting a thorough investigation and taking appropriate action, an employee may still sue the company. But the seriousness of your inquiry, along with a comprehensive policy, adequate training and consistent treatment of violations can help convince the court that you did everything possible to provide a harassment-free workplace.

Consult with your legal advisor who can help you create a policy and training sessions and help you steer clear of embarrassment suits.

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