RECEIVING COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
It is important to act as soon as you become aware of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace. Even if the information comes to you informally, via a passing comment or an informal meeting, you must take the information seriously and take steps to protect the person making the disclosure from potential further harm until a full formal investigation can be carried out.
Sexual harassment matters are often emotionally charged. A formal investigation can be an enormously stressful for everyone involved. Both parties will often feel extremely vulnerable. When an investigation is carried out by someone known to one or both parties, this sense of vulnerability can lead to concerns about the investigation process, particularly if the investigator is close to either party. There may be a perception of bias around the person conducting the investigation even where no actual bias exists.
This perception of bias can often make it more difficult for the parties to have confidence in the process and accept the outcome of an investigation. In cases where the alleged victim or alleged perpetrator has a close working relationship with the person investigating, it can be difficult to maintain impartiality and to know when unconscious bias is influencing decision-making.
Aside from the need to maintain confidence in an investigation process and acceptance of outcomes, there is also the issue of confidentiality. How does an investigator maintain confidentiality for the sake of both parties while, at the same time, conducting a thorough investigation?
An external investigator, trained in managing sexual harassment matters, is often the best option when these types of complaints arise. An external consultant will know how to conduct an in-depth investigation in a sensitive and confidential manner, giving both parties confidence in the process.
STEPS FOR LAUNCHING AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION
If you’ve received a complaint of sexual harassment or you’ve found out about sexual harassment occurring and you want to engage an independent specialist to manage the matter, your first step will be to contact the parties involved and inform them of what the process will be moving forward. The process should involve measures for keeping both parties safe from further harm and from victimisation and should include providing the parties to the sexual harassment complaint with ongoing support options. It will usually be necessary to ensure the parties aren’t continuing to work together while the investigation is ongoing.
If you’re unsure about whether you need to investigate or how you should handle a disclosure of sexual harassment, you can contact our expert team for a free, no obligation consultation.