Fact Sheet

Investigating Harassment/Hostile Environment Complaints

There are four basic steps to handling a sexual harassment complaint:

  1. taking the complaint;
  2. interviewing the alleged offender;
  3. investigating the complaint, including interviewing witnesses; and
  4. taking appropriate action.

Maintain all documentation in separate, confidential personnel files. Ensure that all interviews are conducted in private areas.

1. Taking the Complaint

2. Interviewing the Alleged Harasser

3. Developing Information

4. Taking Appropriate Action

If you conclude that harassment has occurred, you are legally obligated to take appropriate disciplinary action. Appropriate discipline may range from verbal counseling to immediate termination, depending on the severity of the circumstances, the parties’ past record, and their position within the organization.

You should:

What constitutes “appropriate corrective action” for non-employee harassment varies considerably, depending on the circumstances, including the amount of control that you have over the non-employee and the legal relationship between you and the non-employee. You need to do whatever is reasonable under the circumstances to try to stop the harassment from occurring.

Where the alleged harasser is a specific known individual (i.e., guest, client, or vendor), communicate directly with the individual to advise him/her of your concern and request that the harassment stop. If the harassment continues, you may need to consider terminating your relationship with the non-employee.

5. Taking Action Even if the Investigation Is Inconclusive

Even if the investigation provides believable allegations sincerely brought, but no witnesses, and the alleged harasser credibly denies all allegations, the nonprofit should still take proactive measures to ensure that both employees understand their responsibilities and that the nonprofit takes such matters seriously. Consider the following steps:

Meet separately with each individual and provide the results of the investigation, the action the nonprofit will now take, and the content of the memo discussed above.

Adapted from Sexual Harassment manual, Fisher & Phillips Ltd, attorneys at law, 2001