What Can I Expect Once I Internally Report Sexual Harassment?
There are some guidelines of what should be expected if a company is going to properly follow the law, and then there’s the understanding of what could happen if the company is not going to follow the law. If someone is being harassed and they report it internally, a good company will immediately start a thorough investigation. They may bring in an outside investigator. The company has an obligation, under the law, to conduct an immediate and appropriate investigation into any report of unwanted harassing conduct. If a company fails to do that, they can be sued for failing to prevent harassment. A person who reports harassment can expect the company, if they’re going to do it right, to take the complaint seriously. They’re going to ask for a very detailed written statement, oral interviews, and possibly to examine your phone or emails. They’re going to interview everyone who may have the knowledge, including the harasser.
Once the investigation concludes, a good company will take immediate and appropriate corrective action, as they’re required to do under the law. The corrective action they take can be anything from a counseling session to a termination. A good company may determine that there was no legitimate harassing conduct, so they will take no corrective action. All those possibilities are on the table.
Bad companies, on the other hand, will do all sorts of different things that are illegal. They may try to put pressure on the victim to withdraw the allegations. Or, they will simply transfer the victim to a different location and then overload the victim and try to get them fired or get them to quit. A lot of times, bad companies will hire an outside investigator to do a supposed investigation and really it will be a whitewash. They’ll sweep it under the rug and there will be no real investigation.
The law requires a company to do an immediate and appropriate investigation. Bad companies almost never take immediate and appropriate corrective action, as they’re required to. When they get detailed allegations of visual, physical, or verbal harassment or unwanted advances and they have corroborating evidence of it, they will somehow conclude that they can’t substantiate those allegations. That is a violation of the law. That company can be sued for failure to prevent harassment.