Checklist for investigating Harassment Allegations
Do's and Dont's When Dealing with Harassment Investigations
Although the is no statutory requirement for organizations to have a separate policy for dealing with allegations of harassment, having some guidance on investigating such matters may prove to be useful, as allegations raised under the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 should be investigated. Below is a list to things to consider when tasked with such an investigation - please note this is for guidance only.
- Act promptly - delays could result in a Tribunal claim being submitted;
- Understand that allegations can be raised by:
- the employee who feels they have been directly subjected to harassment;
- other people who feel that have witnessed some form of harassment.
- Select someone to investigate the allegation or a team of people if the organisation is large enough, bearing in mind the gender of any members of the team;
- Document the accusation;
- Explain how the investigation process will operate;
- Ask for names of any witnesses from both the accuser and the accused;
- Request any other forms of evidence ie emails/letters/text messages etc from both parties;
- Devise a list of questions to put to both parties that ensures both parties views and sides are being looked into - an open mind is key to a fair investigation;
- Maintain all notes and records carefully;
- Create a written report which summarizes the investigation ensuring that all evidence has been included and make a recommendation on the next steps ie disciplinary action (but not a suggested outcome);
- … be dismissive about either the complaint or the person raising the complaint;
- … put off the investigation until you are less busy/have more time etc;
- … forget that you may have procedures in your staff handbook that may need consideration, and may also assist in dealing with such matters;
- … ask someone to undertake/be involved in the investigation if they could be seen as not being objective - ie the best friend/partner of the alleged harasser;
- … promise confidentiality/anonymity - all attempts to keep this as confidential as possible should be made, as long as this does not hinder the investigation;
- … forget to interview or even ignore any witness whose names have been put forward if it has been suggested they may have seen/heard something;
- … keep informal rough notes (or fail to keep any notes);
- … forget to keep the complainant up to date with the progress of the investigation especially if a delay has crept in;
- ... fail to reach a conclusion - 'I am not sure or I don't know' is not a conclusion, it is better to give an outcome, with objective reasons as to how you reached that outcome;
- … allow the complainant to be victimized - this can lead to further accusations;
- … ignore the fact that some training/action may be required to be taken if the outcome is that something did occur, regardless of who the transgressor was.
Remember that a swift response to an allegation and a fair process may well resolve matters without the need for any further action to be taken.