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Sexual Harassment Investigation

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Sexual Harassment Investigation


Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature, but, refers to behavior that is not welcome, which is personally offensive, which lowers morale which, therefore, interferes with work effectiveness. It should be the policy of all organizations to promptly investigate and, when necessary, resolve problems, complaints, or situations which interfere with their effort to provide freedom from harassment. The organization is ethically responsible for creating a work environment of equal opportunity that protects the safety, health and welfare of its employees. Such conduct, whether committed by supervisors or non-supervisory personnel should be specifically prohibited.

Current Issues

A male Human Resource Manager has a history of using foul language, making lewd, sexual remarks to females and also tends to touch more than necessary. He playfully passes it off as a joke, but continues to display unacceptable behavior in the workplace. Even though he displays this behavior to co-workers and plant employees, he is careful not to behave in this manner when he needs to visit the corporate headquarters of the company. His behavior, at the plant level, has been allowed to go on during his 4 year tenure with the company.

It is a known secret that he has been seen or heard making requests for sex; offensive flirtations, advances or propositions; sexually oriented or gender-stereotyping jokes and sending sexually suggestive pictures to female employees. He has a boisterous personality and appears to intimidate most of the females he encounters in the workplace.

When confronted by employees regarding his behavior, he will quickly discredit them; dismiss the issue and move on to another subject with lighting speed. He is an extremely talkative individual with the ability to sway a conversation from its original intent without batting an eye.

On more than one occasion, the Plant Manager has met with the HR Manager to discuss what he considered "minor" complaints regarding his behavior toward female employees. The HR Manager would argue that the individual may have perceived it as harassment but it was not. He would always state that he should know what sexual harassment consists of because he is in charge of the branch HR department. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Plant Manager and the HR Manager were friends, the seriousness of the accusations was not properly addressed and the HR Manager received a "slap on the wrist" each time.

There was no formal investigation of the incidents and the complainants were left feeling uneasy and uncomfortable because they still had to deal with the HR Manager on a day to day basis.

To add insult to injury, the HR Manager conducted Sexual Harassment training for the branch management staff the next month. Several individuals asked permission to miss the training and attend at a later date when the corporate office was conducting it. The plant manager insisted that all of his staff attend the training.

The final incident occurred when the HR Manager began making verbal sexual remarks to an hourly plant employee. The employee immediately went to her supervisor and asked him to speak with the HR Manager. I'm not sure if the supervisor actually addressed the situation, but the HR Manager continued to use inappropriate language, and make lewd gestures when in the employee's presence. The employee felt uncomfortable when he was around and expressed this to her supervisor on several occasions. A few months after the initial incident, the company received a Notice to Defend from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission as well a Notice of Charge of Discrimination, from the EEOC.

Management Styles

It is apparent that the individuals responsible for providing a safe working environment for the employees were in actuality, working against the organization instead of cooperating. The way individuals feel about the job they perform and how well they co-operate with others to get the job done depends on the style of management. In this situation, the Plant Manager and the HR Manager were unable to make the right decision to carry out their work. I believe it is most appropriate, at this point, to reprimand all management staff that was aware of the harassment situation who failed to follow the proper procedure, ranging from suspension to termination of employment. Future goal setting and corrective action plans, outlining expectations, should also be an integral part of the reprimand process.

Key Role of an Effective Sexual Harassment Investigator

The following points are some of the key factors to being an effective sexual harassment investigator; the investigator should not be the harasser or have a reputation as one, be unbiased in their fact finding decisions, be credible to management and employees of the company, investigate what happened do not try to cover it up, facilitate the prompt and appropriate resolution of the situation, and assist the employees involved in the complaint in the healing process. These points are not all inclusive, but I believe they are a major factor of effective harassment investigation and management.


Harassment by a peer or peers sometimes can best be handled on an individual, personal basis. However, if the problem persists or if the individual is unable to handle the situation on their own or if the individual is being harassed by a manager, supervisor, agent or non-employee, the individual should report their concern immediately to their manager, Human Resources department, VP or other individual responsible for harassment investigations.

Complaints should be taken seriously and investigated promptly. The existence and nature of the complaint should be disclosed only to the extent necessary to make a prompt and thorough investigation or as may be necessary to take appropriate corrective measures.

Unfortunately, the individual responsible for harassment investigations, at the plant level, was also the perpetrator of the unlawful act.



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