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You’ve Received a Harassment Complaint – Now What?

Feb 8, 2021 | Human Resources, Leadership, Training

Preventing harassment at your company is vital to creating and maintaining a productive work environment where all employees are treated with respect. Unfortunately, though, even when you do all you can to prevent harassing behavior, it can still happen. If it does, your response to it can limit the potential damage. Follow these 10 steps to properly handle a harassment complaint.

10 Steps to Handle a Harassment Complaint

  1. Clearly outline your harassment complaint process in your policy and cover it in detail in your harassment training. Being clear about what employees should do if they’re harassed or witness harassment is critical. Keep in mind, however, that employees do not have to follow the policy exactly in order to make a complaint.
  2. Accept every complaint without judgment. Don’t jump to conclusions, and never disregard a complaint. As a manager or supervisor, you are legally obligated to investigate any incident of harassment you are made aware of.
  3. Protect employees from physical harm. If any part of a harassment complaint indicates the potential for violence, take immediate action to ensure your employees’ safety.
  4. Follow your company’s reporting and investigation processes. You must consistently follow procedures no matter who is involved in the harassment complaint.
  5. Own the process. Never suggest that employees work things out on their own. As soon as a harassment complaint comes to you, it is your responsibility to follow proper procedures to resolve the issue.
  6. Seek support if you need it. If a harassment complaint feels too complex for you to handle the investigation yourself, bring in other members of the management or human resources teams. You should also hand off the investigation entirely if there could be any perceived conflict of interest with your involvement.
  7. Be proactive about retaliation. Any retaliation against a victim or witness of harassment is illegal. Let everyone involved in the situation know retaliation will not be tolerated and encourage them to immediately report it if it does happen.
  8. Document every step in the process. This includes the original harassment complaint, interviews with anyone involved, and all other evidence you may uncover.
  9. Take corrective action. If there is evidence of harassment, you must take immediate corrective action that is both appropriate for the level of misconduct that occurred and discourages or eliminates the possibility of the conduct happening again.
  10. Follow up with the complainant. Following confidentiality rules, let the harassment victim know that action was taken in response to the complaint. This sends a clear message that the company takes harassment seriously and is committed to preventing and stopping it.

Prevent Harassment Complaints with Online 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.



  1. Accept every complaint without judgment. Don’t jump to conclusions, and never disregard a complaint. As a manager or supervisor, you are legally obligated to investigate any incident of harassment you are made aware of.
  2. Protect the complainant or witness against physical harm. If any part of a harassment complaint indicates the potential for violence, take immediate action to ensure your employees’ safety.
  3. Follow your company’s reporting and investigation processes. You must consistently follow procedures no matter who is involved in the harassment complaint.
  4. Own the process. Never suggest that employees work things out on their own. As soon as a harassment complaint comes to you, it is your legal responsibility to follow proper procedures to resolve the issue.
  5. Seek support if you need it. If a harassment complaint feels too complex for you to handle the investigation yourself, bring in other members of your management or human resources teams. You should also hand off the investigation entirely if there could be any perceived conflict of interest with your involvement.
  6. Be proactive about retaliation. Any retaliation against a victim or witness of harassment is illegal. Let everyone involved know that retaliation will not be tolerated and encourage them to immediately report it if it does happen.
  7. Document every step in the process, including the original harassment complaint, interviews with anyone involved, and all other evidence you may uncover.
  8. Take corrective action. If there is evidence of harassment, you must take immediate corrective action that is both appropriate for the level of misconduct that occurred and discourages or eliminates the possibility of the conduct happening again.
  9. Follow up with the complainant. Following confidentiality rules, managers should simply let the harassment victim know that action was taken in response to the complaint. This sends a clear message that the company takes harassment seriously and is committed to preventing and stopping it.

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