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How should employers handle allegations of sexual harassment?

In today's workplace, sometimes an employee will claim that another employee sexually harassed him or her. When employers in Michigan are faced with such a dilemma it is important that they act promptly and appropriately. If not, the employer could be subject to a lawsuit brought by the purported victim.

First of all, it is important for an employer to listen to the employee who believes they were sexually harassed. An employer should generally not assume anything or jump to conclusions. Similarly, employers must carefully listen in order to recognize whether or not the employee has been the victim of illegal harassment. It is important that the employer takes the employee's report seriously, even if this is not the first time the employee has made such a complaint.

In addition, employers are usually forbidden from taking any retaliatory actions against the employee who is complaining of illegal sexual harassment. Retaliatory actions include laying a person off, subjecting them to a demotion, cutting their wages or assigning the employee to a different position in the workplace. Also, an employee's complaint should remain confidential. This is important in order to stop other employees from gossiping or taking sides.

In addition, a solid investigation into the situation tends to be done promptly, thoroughly and in a manner that is fully documented. Sometimes it may be necessary to bring in a third party to investigate the claim. Finally, if after a complete investigation it is determined that sexual harassment occurred, the employee who committed the harassment is usually disciplined by his or her employer.

Employers are responsible for ensuring their workplaces are safe, and this includes taking action when allegations of harassment surface. For advice regarding what an employer's legal responsibilities are, a discussion with an attorney may be in order.

Source: FindLaw, "How to Handle Harassment and Discrimination Complaints," Accessed May 23, 2015

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