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What is Involved in a Sexual Harassment Investigation?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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There are a number of different steps involved in a sexual harassment investigation, often related to the particular event. Certain common methods and procedures are typically used in different investigations, however, and these methods are used to ensure fairness and to try to determine the validity of a claim. Procedures for a sexual harassment investigation often consist primarily of interviews with a number of individuals involved with a sexual harassment claim, including the victim who filed a complaint, the alleged perpetrator of the harassment, and any witnesses available from the event.

A sexual harassment investigation is the process of trying to determine the validity of a sexual harassment claim, typically made in a workplace or other group environment. Proper procedures should be followed to ensure the rights of those involved in this type of investigation and to try to generate a fair and accurate appraisal of what occurred. A sexual harassment investigation typically begins with an interview of the person who filed a harassment report or claim. Whenever possible, two investigators should be used for a sexual harassment claim to avoid potential claims of bias following an investigation.

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The victim who filed a sexual harassment report is typically the first person interviewed during a sexual harassment investigation. This should be done in private and the victim should feel that his or her rights are being respected and upheld; the investigator should keep in mind that any type of retaliation against the victim can be grounds for serious legal action. The victim should give a report detailing what occurred, and he or she should be encouraged to be as specific as possible, reporting the time and place of any occurrences, as well as the names of witnesses to the harassment. Open-ended questions should be asked throughout a sexual harassment investigation to ensure the answers are in the words of those involved.

Once the victim is fully interviewed, then the alleged perpetrator of the harassment should be interviewed to continue the sexual harassment investigation. He or she should be treated respectfully, and the investigator should be sure to afford him or her the same rights afforded to the victim. The same type of interview should be conducted, including questions regarding specific dates, times, and locations as well as witnesses to the event.

Witnesses should then be interviewed. The witnesses should typically not be told the names of those involved, but asked about the events, with reference to time and place, and allowed to identify those involved on their own. All of these reports should be typed up, along with any notes an investigator takes, and a final conclusion should be reached. This report is then typically submitted to a manager or someone else with authority to take the steps necessary to resolve the situation. This resolution can involve termination of employment, and further legal action may be required, depending on the situation.

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