Sexual Harassment –  A Breakdown of Responsibilities

Sexual Harassment Responsibilities in HR
When it comes to sexual harassment responsibilities in the workplace, many individuals must ensure that sexual harassment complaints or allegations are taken seriously and investigated properly.

It’s the responsibility of a human resource manager to oversee department functions, as well as manage employees.  Their responsibility umbrella entails policies and procedures surrounding recruitment and talent selection, training and development, compensation and benefits and employee relations.

A workplace without employee harmony creates mistrust, fighting and a lack of teamwork.  As an HR professional, you play a pivotal role in strengthening the bond between employees. And, in no situation will your skills be more needed that when dealing with a sexual harassment complaint. You will need to use your solid communication skills, critical thinking and decision-making capabilities to bridge the gap that sexual harassment creates in order to conduct a fair and comprehensive investigation.

Start with a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of various positions.

Sexual Harassment Responsibilities of the Accuser (aka Complainant)

When actions violate the Sexual Harassment policy of your company, complainants should provide a written statement about the alleged misconduct to the HR director or report the complaint based on the policy procedures created by your HR department. This complaint should  submitted as soon as possible.  To ensure that a prompt and thorough sexual harassment investigation can be conducted, complaints should provide:

  • The name, department and position of the alleged person (or persons) involved in the sexual harassment complaint.
  • A detailed description of the incident as well as specific information such as date(s), location(s) and potential witnesses.
  • If any steps were previously taken to stop the harassment.
  • Any other information relevant to the harassment complaint.

Sexual Harassment Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors

In many cases, employees will take their concerns to their managers or supervisors. It’s the duty of the manager / supervisor to keep  the name of the accused and accuser confidential, and deal quickly and fairly to address the allegations of sexual harassment within their departments. Your managers should be trained to take every complaint or concern seriously without judgement.

Situations that may seem minor to some are not to others. It’s important that every concern whether it’s a formal complaint or an informal concern be taken seriously and immediately report the concern to HR so that action to prevent retaliation or prohibited the conduct from recurring while the complaint is investigated. Managers and supervisors who allow or tolerate sexual harassment or retaliation should know they are in violation of our Sexual Harassment policy and subject to discipline.

Sexual Harassment Responsibilities of the HR Department:

  • Ensure that the complainant and the accused are aware of the seriousness of a sexual harassment complaint.
  • Explain your company’s sexual harassment policy and what they can expect throughout the investigation
  • Determine if the incident affects the complainant’s ability to perform his or her job.
  • Determine if other individuals may have been subject to similar harassment.
  • Notifying the police of any alleged criminal activities.
  • Assign investigators and prepare a detailed sexual harassment investigation plan.
  • Ensure that the documentation is thorough and can stand up in court if necessary.
  • Submit a summarized report with recommendations to company officials.

Sexual Harassment Confidentiality Rules

Keep in mind that all information surrounding a sexual harassment concern or complaint should be kept confidential.  Information should be revealed on a need-to-know basis.  The complainant’s identity will need to be revealed to the accused, along with a list of witnesses, so that a proper defense can be mounted. All information pertaining to a sexual harassment investigation should be properly locked in secured files within the HR department.

Need Help?

Should you require additional information on roles and sexual harassment responsibilities when a complaint has surfaced, our “HR on Call” services may help you. We have a wide variety of seasoned HR professionals who can act as an extension of your HR team. Contact us now to find out how it works.

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