I'm the new General Manager for my company located in Akron, OH. One of my employees has complained about sexual harassment. She was having an affair with her supervisor. With that ending she's having an affair with a co-worker. She also mentioned she was released form rehab for alcoholism. A supervisor from an other depart joins this employee and a few others telling lewd jokes. She got offended by the supervisor's joke and threatened to sue. What should I do?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Sexual harassment
Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously by an employer. Every employer should have in place a policy against sexual harassment. When allegations arise, the employer should be sure to follow its anti-harassment policy.
What makes a "good" policy is more complicated than can or should be explained here. If your company has one and it has not been recently reviewed by an attorney experienced with employment law, your firm should have it reviewed. If your firm does not have a written policy in place, you should contact an attorney to get such a policy immediately.
Part of the policy should include a promise by the employer to investigate promptly any harassment allegations. Even if no policy is in place right now, you chould promptly investigate the matter raised by your employee. Again, how you imnvestigate these allegations is important. Mishandling these claims can result in serious liability for an employer. So if you are inexperienced with these types of matters, you should contact someone who knows.
The best source of information will come from an attorney who has handled these matters frequently in the past. Alternatively, there are many human resources professionals familiar with how to handle the matter. HR professionals also have orgainzations like the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM) and others that offer its members plenty of information to assist employers.
Your situation is particularly complex because it involves multiple employees at different levels, i.e., supervisors and co-workers, and because you have a potential issue concerning alcoholism. If your firm has a human resources department, you should seek their advice about how to proceed. If the HR people are not experienced with handling matters concerning sexual harassment and matters concerning alcoholism, or if you have no HR people to consult with, you need to obtain the advice of an experienced employment lawyer.
I realize this response has not given you many specifics about how to respond to your situation, but you are involved in a potentially dangerous situation for your employer and you need detailed, expert, advice about how to proceed. You need more than can be provided through an internet inquiry and response.
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