The Proper Way to Handle a Case of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The workplace is a place where productivity is central, but as we are human beings, it’s also a social place, and this can lead to some very uncomfortable social incidents and situations. Discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment – they can occur, as unfortunate as they are, and it’s the job of the HR department to handle these nasty issues in a swift way and to try to resolve such problems.

It’s certainly not a pleasant part of the job, and neither is it an easy one; there are many legal, ethical, and professional concerns to consider. What makes it even harder is that often it’s a case of ‘he said, she said,’ or based on rumours. So how do you handle that? Here’s the proper way to handle a case of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Company policy

Even before any complaint is filed – as soon as a new employee is hired and included in the workforce – he or she should be made aware of how serious the company takes harassments and other offences. It should be a matter of policy, written down, and communicated to the whole staff. It’s important to make it clear – to everybody – that it will never be tolerated and will be investigated right away.

Assign an investigator

An investigation may require various persons to be present for research, investigation, and interrogation, but your first job should be to assign a leader of the investigation – the actual investigator. This person should have no personal connections with anyone involved, and should be able to work closely together with the legal department and management for information. It’s important there is no conflict of interest at all, and that the lead investigator can remain impartial.

Create a plan

What exactly do you need to know, and how do you discover this investigation? Make a plan – consider it a serious project.


Assure the employees that they are safe from retaliation and that everything will remain confidential. It may be necessary to record interviews for legal purposes – but make sure you ask permission. In any case, notes of the interviews must be included in the report later on, so it’s important to be precise. Have the interviews transcribed by a professional transcription service such as

It may not be possible to truly get to the bottom of it all; no investigation is perfect, and unless there are audio or video recordings about the alleged incident(s), there may not be any proof. Nevertheless a decision should be made as soon as possible, and a thorough report of the investigation must be made. It’s always a good idea to follow up discretely to see whether the problems have been solved, and whether similar incidents can be prevented. Sexual harassment is a serious issue and should be tackled in a swift and decisive manner.

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