Your company is on notice for a workplace lawsuit when your supervisors hear the first inkling
Many employers and managers believe that if an employee hasn’t taken the time to notify your company that there is some kind of problem requiring a workplace investigation (e.g., sexual harassment), that the company is safe from legal hassles.
They’d be wrong.
Courts have repeatedly rejected the “see-no-evil” approach when it comes to the need for a workplace investigation of employee conduct. Actually, any of the following events counts as putting your company on notice that you should start a workplace investigation:
- A supervisor overhears a worker complaining that another worker used a racial epithet in an argument.
- A manager notifies HR that he has suspicions that a worker is being bullied by co-workers, but the victim seems reluctant to come forward.
- A supervisor sees a worker hovering over another worker’s desk on numerous occasions, and the other person doesn’t seem happy with the attention.
- A third-party employee tells HR or a member of management about incidents of discrimination or harassment.
- An employee tells his supervisor that he’ll need time to recuperate from an injury, but isn’t sure he has enough sick time; that is, the worker hasn’t asked for FMLA leave by name.
Getting the word out
As an HR exec, it’s up to you to ensure that managers and supervisors know what they should report to you. A good time to bring this up is when you review policies with managers.
Remind them to notify you of any policy violations they:
- have reported to them.
Remember: Once your company is on notice, it starts being legally liable. Delays in investigating will look like negligence or tacit approval of offending behavior.
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