How to Deal with Sexual Harassment or Discrimination Complaints Now

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While not at all complaints are necessarily legitimate, each and every manager or HR professional should take concerns about harassment seriously

Not only do such complaints pose a threat to the company because of the possibility of lawsuits, but complaints are often made for very serious reasons.

A workplace that allows or overlooks harassment is a workplace in which unfairness, hostility, and emotional pain become the norm.

Here are some basic steps to take in the event that an employee reports a case of sexual harassment or discrimination…

Know Groups Protected by Employment Law in Your State

In order to determine whether the alleged offense is sexual harassment or discrimination as stated by the law, you should be able to determine immediately if the problem can be an offense against a classified group.

By federal law, common groups include sex, race, color, religion, ethnicity, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital status, mental disability, physical disability, and a few more. Some states protect sexual orientation, and some do not.

If a person is being made to feel uncomfortable because of being part of any one of these groups, then the complaint is legitimate.

Attempt to Deal With the Problem Before Filing An Official Complaint

Most of the time, those perpetrating harassment aren’t even aware that they’re doing it.

Maybe they’re making distasteful jokes that some employees find funny, while others find the jokes hurtful.

Often, you can simply sit and talk with the employee, notify him or her of their behavior that others find offensive, and the buck most of the time stops there.

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Get Documentation, Witnesses

Ask the person alleging harassment to document all evidence.

If possible, ask for witnesses.

Sometimes harassment is malicious, is meant to intimidate, and it may have been happening so frequently that there is no other recourse but to file an official complaint.

It’s important that the employee accusing another worker to document all evidence (emails, a paragraph or two retelling incidents, etc.).

If others may have been present when the harassment took place, talk to them, too, and note down their testimony.

Follow-Through and Communicate

Once you’ve filed the complaint to the proper authorities, make sure you follow through with the complaint and stay in touch with the employee.

Once you’ve filed the complaint to the proper authorities, make sure you follow through with the complaint and stay in touch with the employee.

There’s nothing that fills one with more anguish that to make a complaint (which is emotionally draining in the first place) than to have nothing happen.

If an employee files a complaint with you, make sure the authorities process the complaint as quickly as possible.

If you have not heard back, keep making phone calls and writing emails until the problem is taken care of.

Always keep the employee who made the complaint in touch about the status of the complaint.

Objective Professionalism

Always take all complaints seriously.

It’s very easy to completely dismiss a complaint as someone just taking themselves too seriously.

The Last Word

Sometimes it can become exasperating when someone filing a complaint seems to be the type of person who is easily offended. Just remember to put yourself in their shoes.

Ignoring a complaint could lead to very serious problems—for you, for the parties involved, and for the company—in the future.

Although we like to think that harassment and discrimination are things of the past, you’d be surprised by how much farther we have to go.

As managers and HR professionals, it is our job to make sure that we maintain an inviting and respectful workplace.
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