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How to Handle an Employee Sexual Harassment Complaint

Do you have an employee that has come to you with a sexual harassment complaint? As an employer, you have obligations to address this complaint and it must be taken seriously. If you have never experienced this before as an employer, you are likely uncertain about the steps you need to take to ensure you meet your obligations and support your employee.

t is always best to be proactive in addressing workplace sexual harassment. As an employer, you should already have a plan in place to address complaints and to prevent incidents of sexual harassment. In this article, we will outline what you need to do as an employer when an employee comes to you with a sexual harassment complaint. Always keep in mind that sexual harassment may be a painful experience for your employee. Always treat your employee with respect and dignity as part of your response to their complaint and follow these steps.

If you need help with addressing a sexual harassment complaint within your workplace it may be helpful to contact an employment lawyer. The experts at Soni Law Firm are here to help employers and their human resources departments to effectively address complaints within the workplace in order to protect their employee’s rights.

Have a Policy In Place

As an employer in Ontario, you are required to have a policy in place regarding sexual harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This policy should serve as your roadmap in addressing sexual harassment complaints. Not only do you need to have a policy, but this policy must be in writing and must be displayed and accessible for employees to review within the workplace.

Your employees need to know that they are able to report incidents of workplace harassment. Additionally, they need to know that if their supervisor or employer is involved in the harassment, an employee may report the incidents to someone other than their supervisor or employer. In developing your sexual harassment policy you should consult with your Health and Safety Committee. Your policy needs to include how employees are to report incidents as well as how incidents will be investigated and responded to.

How Do I Investigate Complaints?

Employers have a duty to investigate sexual harassment complaints. An employee does not need to make a formal complaint in order for an employee to investigate an incident of workplace harassment. In fact, an employer must investigate all incidents, even those they are aware of that no complaint was made for. Don’t wait to address the complaint. Take swift action in addressing the complaint.

In your investigation, you must prepare a written report including the following information.

  • The complaint
  • The allegations and the response from the alleged harasser
  • Witnesses statements and any other evidence
  • The steps you took during your investigation.

You do not necessarily need to investigate the incident yourself. You may hire a third-party investigator to address the issue for you. Always ensure that any information during the course of the investigation remains confidential unless it must be disclosed for the purpose of the investigation or is otherwise required by law.

The results of the investigation must be communicated to both the complainant and the alleged harasser. This can be done verbally but should be accompanied by an in-writing report of the investigation and outcomes. Any corrective action taken or that will be taken must also be expressed to the complainant and the alleged harasser.

Do I Report Incidents to Police?

There may be times when an employer will need to contact the police in relation to violence and harassment in the workplace. Incidents of assault or threats of violence are serious and should be addressed by reporting the incident to the police. Sexual harassment complaints may not need to be addressed by police if the actions taken are not criminal in nature. In non-emergency situations, you may be able to consult with an employment lawyer for guidance on how you should address the situation you are dealing with in the workplace.

Do I Need to Contact an Employment Lawyer?

In straightforward situations, it may not be necessary for an employer to look for outside help when dealing with sexual harassment complaints. But if you have any concerns about how to appropriately address a situation, it may be helpful to contact a qualified employment lawyer to aid you in addressing the issue.

Many employers choose to support their human resources departments by consulting with employment lawyers when complaints arise. It is always a good idea to stay on top of changes to the laws and the rights of employees. Consider consulting with the experts at Soni Law Firm to ensure you meet your obligations as an employer and protect the rights of your employees.

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About Post Author


Rahul founded Soni Law Firm, a boutique employment, labour, and human rights law firm, with the goal of taking his Downtown Toronto litigation experience and making it accessible to Ontario’s Main Street employees and employers.