Companies in New York are required under certain laws to not discriminate against employees and to handle certain complaints very seriously. Those who oversee these situations often find themselves at a loss when the first situation appears. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States gives some hints for employers to use when dealing with a sexual harassment claim.
Studies show that almost 40% of employees do not report when they feel sexually harassed because they are afraid of how management will handle the situation. This is why it is so important for all managers to have a policy and guidelines in place long before the need arises.
First, all complaints should be taken seriously. There is not a direct cut and dry definition of a serious complaint, but whether it is made informally or formally it should always be taken seriously.
Second, SHRM states that there should be changes made to ensure that the employee feels safe in the workplace before an investigation is opened. It may be necessary to remove the alleged culprit from the office while the investigation is underway, transfer them to another location or remove them through paid leave.
Third, all parties should be aware of the steps that are being taken to deal with the complaint. Both the alleged harasser and the complainant have the right to know how the company plans to handle the complaint. An investigation should begin immediately in an unbiased manner.
Finally, when the investigation is done and a decision is made, communication should occur between management, the complainant and the alleged harassed. Communication should not be for company gossip but on a need to know basis. The conclusion may involve mandatory training, termination of one employee or no action taken if the complaint is false. No matter what the investigation determines, there should be follow up about the situation with both parties.