Don’t prejudge the “harasser” in an employee complaint investigation

When you’re interviewing the harasser during an employee complaint investigation, let’s say in this case the alleged harasser, again you don’t want to have that person walk away thinking, “You know, they’ve convicted me and they’re going to fire me and, you know, I may as well just go get a lawyer now and sue them for defamation.”

Emphasize retaliation and its consequences
You want to have them feeling that they’re being treated fairly. There’s no prejudgment. Particularly for alleged harasser, you need to emphasize and probably hand them a policy against retaliation and say if they engage in retaliation, they’ll be subject to immediate discipline up to and including termination.

Put all the employee complaints before the accused
A common mistake is when the company puts only a handful of the victim’s allegations to the accused and the accused at a later date learning that there were many more allegations that were never put to the accused. The accused maybe could very easily have rebutted those and will feel like the investigation was rigged. And that’s another thing that you hear when the alleged accusers file lawsuits is, you know, they prejudged me, they didn’t look into it thoroughly. So try to avoid that.

Ask about witnesses and documents that support the accused position during an employee complaint investigation. You don’t want the record to show you only asked the victim for witnesses and supporting documents. You need to show that you’re asking that same question to both sides.

You need to convey impartiality as the interview continues. This has to be carried through into your notes as well.

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