Sexual Harassment: What Steps to Take When an Internal Investigation Falls Short

October 8, 2018

Sexual Harassment is a rising issue in today’s workplace. Unfortunately, many employees are subjected to sexual harassment without knowing the rights and remedies that are available to them. It is important to know that the law has provided many safeguards for employees who are subjected to this type of harassment in the workplace. What steps can an employee take when their complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace fall on deaf ears? It is not uncommon for employers to try and avoid a thorough investigation. Some employers may be more concerned with avoiding liability rather than taking meaningful action to address such issues. The purpose of this post is to provide important information to employees regarding sexual harassment and what steps they can take when they feel their employer is not taking their complaints seriously.

Sexual Harassment

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

The EEOC goes on to state, “Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.”

“Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). “

For more information see: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm

Your Employers Policies and Procedures

If you come across a situation were you are being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace it is important for you to know the standard policies and procedures of your employer. It is difficult to hold an employer accountable without knowing what steps they should be taking. Every  employer has different procedures they follow remedy these situations.

If your employer has a employee handbook, review it and familiarize yourself with your employers procedures. If your employer has a Human Resources department, contact them, make sure they are on notice and taking the necessary steps. If you have questions regarding policies and procedures, ask them and be sure they clarify any portion of your company policies that you don’t understand.

The law does not necessarily require your employer to launch an investigation into claims of sexual harassment. Nonetheless, they are required to take some form of reasonable action to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Sexual Harassment  Investigation

One step an employee can take is to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If requested, the EEOC will take the necessary steps to conduct an independent investigation into the complainant’s accusations. The EEOC will do so on the employee’s behalf and provide the employee with written documentation regarding the outcome of their investigation.

The EEOC will begin its investigation once an employee files a administrative charge through their offices. It is important to note that the EEOC may contact your employer or co-workers. Further, EEOC officers may make site visits to the workplace and conduct witness interviews. Generally, the average EEOC investigation take around 10 months. The length of an EEOC investigations depends on the complexity of the investigation, the size of the employer and the parties’ willingness to be cooperative in the investigation.

Once the EEOC has conducted a full investigation they will send the parties a letter stating the outcome and conclusions of the investigation. If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the employee is being subjected to harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, they will provide the complainant with a Right to Sue notice. This will permit the employee to proceed to court with proper representation. An EEOC investigation is necessary step prior to filing any sort employment harassment or discrimination lawsuit. If an employee decides to take this step, they may want contact an attorney to assist them in filing a complaint with the EEOC.

Inadequate Investigation by Employer

Request Re-Investigation

If you suspect your employer has failed to conduct a adequate investigation, contacting an experienced attorney may be a necessary step. An attorney who has substantial experience in labor law will know the necessary steps to take in order to remedy the hostile work environment you are being subjected to. If your employer refuses to take your sexual harassment claims seriously, you and your attorney may need to make a formal request for another investigation.

If an employee feels that they are being subjected to any form of sexual harassment in the workplace then they should consult with an attorney who is experienced in labor law immediately. The laws governing sexual harassment are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice.  Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.