Discrimination and sexual harassment are serious workplace concerns, and can have major legal implications if not handled in a proper and timely manner. Here, the legal professionals at SLH detail methods to handle these types of complaints.
What is the Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment and Discrimination?
Sexual harassment is considered any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Any conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable has the potential to become a sexual harassment complaint. Discrimination is legally defined as treating, or proposing to treat someone unfavorably because of a personal characteristic protected by law, such as race, sex or disability.
Every workplace should have information posted publicly defining sexual harassment and discrimination and detailing the policies in place to prevent, report and punish it.
How Should a Sexual Harassment or Discrimination Complaint Be Handled?
Once an employer has been made aware of a harassment or discrimination claim, it is the legal and ethical duty of the employer to immediately begin a thorough investigation of the charges. Those affected by harassment or discrimination may be too embarrassed, or afraid of retaliation, to come forward, so any indication that harassment or discrimination is occurring, such as break room gossip or third-party observations, and not just direct complaints, should be investigated.
Speak with the person who has been affected directly, and let them know that their complaint is being taken seriously and that they will be safe from retaliation. Interview them thoroughly about the complaint, and be sure to ask when and where the event happened, the names of the perpetrators, any possible witnesses and a detailed description of the event itself. When speaking to those purported to be causing the harassment or discrimination, inform them that the complaint is being taken seriously, and that there will be serious consequences should the complaint be proven true. However, the alleged perpetrator also deserves a fair and just investigation, and assure them that they will not be persecuted without solid evidence of wrongdoing.
Interview any witnesses, or individuals who were informed of the harassment or discrimination by the victim. Upon weighing all the evidence, speak to a legal professional to ensure your investigation has been thorough. Consult others in positions of management or authority to determine the best response. Enact any necessary discipline and if necessary, provide accommodations for the victim to help their work environment feel safer, such as moving their office.
How Can SLH Attorneys Help My Business Handle Complaints?
At Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, we understand the specific issues that arise when running a business—allow us to help provide peace of mind by working as your legal consultant. Our dedicated team will walk you through the process of handling discrimination and harassment claims, providing counsel on best legal practices and ensuring your business can function safely and harmoniously. For more information, we urge you to contact us today.