If an employee believes they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work, they may seek legal action against you, their employer. It doesn’t have to be you or another member of your senior team that is accused of harassing them either. It could be a colleague or even a customer.
So how do you go about dealing with such a difficult accusation?
First, ensure everyone takes it seriously
You need to ensure all your senior team understand the seriousness of the matter and do not joke about it or try to dismiss the employee’s claims. Whatever people’s personal feelings about the truth of the claims, if someone catches them making light of the matter, it could harm your defense.
Talk to the person making the complaint
This is a tricky one as you do not want to be seen to be trying to persuade them to drop the claim or anything like that. Yet you do need to inform them that you are doing your best to investigate their allegations. If they feel satisfied that you are taking the matter seriously it may be enough to prevent them from taking the matter further. Sometimes people just want to feel heard and have a matter dealt with, rather than being set on any financial recompense.
Second, delegate someone to handle the matter
The person you choose should carry out a thorough investigation. Just because they have known the person accused of the harassment for years, does not mean they should just believe them when they deny harassing anyone. They need to listen to both sides of the story and together, you need to work out what to do next.
Dealing with a sexual harassment claim is a delicate matter and fraught with potential legal pitfalls if you do not go about things the correct way. Getting early legal help is wise.