Any form of workplace harassment should be taken seriously by employers. Unfortunately, I’ve seen my fair share of restaurant clients who haven’t taken harassment complaints seriously and ended up paying for it dearly — both culturally and legally!
So while these situations can be unpleasant for all involved, it’s up to employers to face each one head on to ensure that a fair and thorough investigation occurs.
Here’s how employers can unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) impede or botch a harassment investigation.
Harassment By the Numbers
For those who think that workplace harassment doesn’t happen that often, let’s put it into perspective. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 26,000 charges of harassment were reported during fiscal year 2017. This includes racial and sexual harassment, among others.
It not only happens often, it’s a costly process too. Settlements of $125.5 million were awarded during the same timeframe. And these were only the reported cases. It’s not far-fetched to assume that victims may have decided not to report violations, perhaps because of fear of retaliation or embarrassment.
There are a number of ways that employers can hinder harassment investigations, and as a result, create a laundry list of HR violations. Listed below are some common ways this happens as well as real-life case examples:
Ignoring complaints. This one is a biggie. Too often, employers may ignore complaints in the hopes that the issue will take care of itself once cooler heads prevail. Or they may assume it’s just not that serious. Unfortunately, there still can be a “boys will be boys” or “teens will be teens” kind of mentality (or any other number of harmful assumptions) among employers, leading them to inappropriately shrug off complaints.