As a business owner, manager, or supervisor, you already know what you can do to create a respectful and harassment-free work environment. You know that you can prevent harassment by training your staff on how to recognize inappropriate behavior. And you should also know what to do if you receive a harassment complaint. What you may not have planned for is what to do if you’re accused of harassment yourself.
It would be short-sighted to talk about what to do if you’re accused of harassment without first saying that you can likely avoid the issue altogether by always behaving properly in the workplace. To do this, you must take an honest self-assessment of your words and actions. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to language or behavior that may be considered offensive. If you find yourself wondering whether something might be crossing a line, it probably is.
Follow These Best Practices if You’re Accused of Harassment
If an employee, vendor, or customer finds your conduct harassing, you should expect they will report it. At that time, your organization is obligated to conduct a workplace harassment investigation, and you will be at the center of it. Your future depends on how you conduct yourself from this point forward. Follow these best practices:
- Cooperate completely. When you are interviewed, answer questions fully and honestly. Make yourself available for follow up questions.
- Identify witnesses. Think about who else might have insight into the situation either directly or indirectly.
- Provide details. Provide as much detail as you can about the situation in question, as well as any context that may be important.
- Do not make excuses. Do not blame others or try to justify inappropriate behavior.
- Do not retaliate. Retaliation against someone who reports harassment or participates in an investigation is illegal. Follow the law and do not engage in any behavior that may be perceived as retaliatory.
Your company must follow the law and investigate every harassment complaint fully. If it is found that you violated company policy, you should expect that some form of disciplinary action, up to and including termination, will occur.
Remember, respect is the foundation of a supportive environment where everyone in your company can thrive. It is up to you to lead by example.
Harassment Prevention Training
Training your employees on what harassment looks like, how to report it, and how to intervene when appropriate will help prevent harassment. The more information employees have, the more empowered they will be. Preview our online Harassment Prevention course below, and click here to find out if your state requires customized harassment training.