Addressing Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace

With sexual misconduct allegations popping up in workplaces all across the country, now is the time for employers to emphasize how they would respond in similar situations. Is there an existing policy for sexual and other types of employee harassment?

While new hires may be more familiar with this topic as it is likely addressed in the new hire handbook, but what about those veteran employees? When was the last time that harassment policies and procedures were discussed?

Here are three easy tips to ensure your company is prepared to A.I.D. in the event a sexual harassment complaint is filed.

Acknowledge the Possibilities

Post a visible flyer for staff addressing how sexual harassment complaints will be handled. All employees should have a clear understanding that sexual and other forms of employee harassment will not be tolerated. All claims will be thoroughly investigated.

It takes courage for an employee to step forward and admit he/she is a victim of harassment. Offer a variety of methods through which complaints can be filed. Whether in person, via phone or email, identify the hierarchy of professionals an employee should contact to file such a complaint. Be sure to include immediate supervisors or the human resources department.

Investigate the Complaint

Whether a formal complaint is filed or there is gossip circulating around the rumor mill, any accusations of sexual misconduct or harassment should be thoroughly investigated. Be mindful to avoid leading questions; instead ask open-ended questions.

Speak with the involved parties. It is ideal to interview the employee who filed the complaint and the accused at separate times. Assure fair treatment for each employee by vowing to make no assumptions in favor or against either party. Also, identify and conduct interviews with any potential witnesses. Log detailed accounts of the incident.  Encourage timely communication going forward to address any threats or ongoing harassment.

Determine the Appropriate Action

Once all viable information is collected, consult with other HR professionals and an employment rights attorney to gain insight regarding the best approach for handling the complaint. Potential resolutions may include project reassignment, work space relocation or possibly termination.

All documentation of the initial complaint and the subsequent investigation should be kept separate from the employee’s personnel file. Follow up inquiries with each involved party should be documented to indicate the occurrence of additional incidents or absolute resolution of the initial complaint.


Should a sexual misconduct and harassment allegation surface, the company should always respond immediately. A delayed or absolute lack of corporate response, could result in serious legal trouble for the company. Definitely consult with an attorney regarding employee rights as necessary.