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Mistakes in sexual harassment investigations

Even when California employers think they have policies in place to protect their employees from sexual harassment, they may make mistakes that put them at risk for lawsuits and their employees at risk for further harassment. For example, an employer may think that designating a clear chain of command for reporting harassment is responsible, but this can leave an employee with no alternatives if the harasser is in the chain of command.

Another problem is having a policy that is not clear enough or failing to train employees sufficiently on what constitutes sexual harassment. Employers should also consider whether they want to ban relationships between supervisors and their subordinates. Another option is to require that such relationships be reported to management.

Employers also make errors in handling the investigation of sexual harassment complaints. Even if the complaint does not seem credible or comes from someone who is not as well liked as the individual accused, employers must pursue an investigation seriously. They must keep the investigation confidential and should keep the individuals involved separated as it goes on. They also should make sure the individual understands they cannot be retaliated against for the complaint. Finally, employers must follow up with the individual who filed the complaint.

An employee who has faced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment and who feel their employer's response to it has been unsatisfactory may wish to consult an attorney. An individual may also want to do this if they have been denied a promotion, demoted or treated in some other way that they feel is retaliatory. An attorney may be able to offer advice regarding a strategy.

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