An Employers Responsibility After a Harassment Complaint
An employer who receives a harassment complaint on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, race, national origin, age, religion or disability has an obligation under federal and state law to take immediate steps to investigate the complaint and then take prompt, appropriate remedial action. In most cases, this means the employer has a duty to begin investigating the complaint within 24-48 hours.
What If Your Employer Doesn’t Believe You?
Even if the employer believes the complaint is unjustified, the employer still has a duty to conduct a reasonable investigation in order to minimize the possibility of legal liability. Likewise, the employer may not fire or take other adverse employment action against the person accused of the harassment without first conducting an investigation. Employers who do so may face claims of wrongful dismissal, retaliation, defamation, and/or reverse discrimination.
The Steps Your Employer Should Be Taking
During the investigation, the employer may need to take steps to separate the person who made the complaint from the person(s) alleged to have committed the harassment. The employer must be careful that any actions it takes to do so may not be considered retaliatory by either party. For example, the employer cannot forcibly transfer the individual making the complaint to another department.
If after conducting the investigation the employer determines that some or all of an employee’s complaint is grounded in fact, the employer must take actions reasonably calculated to end the harassment. Such action could include disciplining the harasser and formally noting the discipline in his or her personnel file, requiring him or her to take training, or firing the harasser.