If one of the employees at your company approaches a manager complaining about harassment from a co-worker, you need superb interviewing skills to uncover the truth and protect yourself in the event of a lawsuit.
By asking the right questions in the right atmosphere, the investigator can maximize the chance of reaching a fair assessment and help minimize the likelihood of further legal complaints once the inquiry is finished and the appropriate action is taken.
The investigator must get accurate information to safeguard both the company and the staff members involved in the incident. This is no easy task: Tensions are likely to be high and stories may conflict.
You want to be thorough, just and get at the core of the situation. The conclusions need to be accurate and based on as much information as possible.
The investigator needs to interview the employee making the complaint, the person accused and other colleagues who may have relevant observations.
Here's a list of questions suggested by the EEOC to help you make an accurate assessment about a charge of harassment, which includes discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability:
Be sure the people being interviewed feel comfortable. It helps the investigator objectively assess the issue and can help avoid future legal problems. For example, the complainant may claim the inquiry was biased or not thorough.
Allow about 45 minutes or an hour for each interview. If it goes longer, it's probably gone off the topic and turned into a gripe session. If you need more time, schedule a second interview. Try to hold the interviews in a private, quiet and convenient place without taking telephone calls.
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