Hill Country Memorial Health System
Originating Department: Human Resources
TITLE: HARASSMENT INVESTIGATION PLAN OF ACTION
AFFECTED DEPARTMENTS: ALL
APPROVED: Executive Council
View/Print the Harassment Investigative Confidentiality Form
View/Print the Sexual Harassment Internal Investigation Questions Form
The opportunity exists to be accurate and consistent in the investigation and reporting of a harassment complaint and the opportunity to an expedient resolution to the complaint.
Upon receipt of a complaint, either verbal or written, utilize the following plan of action:
TAKE ALL COMPLAINTS SERIOUSLY.
Be prompt in your actions.
Create a written record of a fair and objective process.
Make involved employees comfortable with the process (explain at every chance what is happening).
I. INITIAL COMPLAINT
Report any complaint to the Director of Human Resources and the Division Director immediately to determine if the complaint is a sexual harassment complaint.
II. Within 24 hours of receiving complaint, Department Manager meet with employee for purpose of obtaining initial information and utilizing the attached Sexual Harassment Internal Investigation Questions and the following:
Details of complaint.
Witnesses to incident.
Ask employee to provide a detailed written account of the incident.
If a sexual harassment complaint, consider having two interviewers (Director, Human Resources).
Allow the employee to have a representative present, if requested.
Assure complaining party of the appropriateness of coming forward.
Assure the employee that the complaint is taken seriously.
Do not promise confidentiality. Assure narrow disclosure on a need-to-know basis.
No employee will be harassed, intimidated or suffer retaliation for coming forward with a complaint.
Remind the employee to tell harasser that the behavior is unwelcome and report immediately any further acts of harassment, retaliation or other unwanted behavior.
If the employee wants nothing to be done, try to convince him/her of the wisdom of positive action. If the employee still insists that nothing be done, consider investigating anyway in light of legal liability to the organization.
Write a detailed description of allegations including time, place, witnesses, identity of harasser(s), frequency.
Obtain all relevant factual information including any prior relationship of the parties, whether the complaining party objected, the effect of conduct on the complaining party.
Find out if the complaining party has raised concerns with management previously and what management's response has been.
Identify others who have been subjected to similar treatment/behavior.
Ask the employee to identify all persons needed to be interviewed.
Advise the employee of what they can expect during the process and keep the employee apprised of the process.
Make no promises and voice no preliminary conclusions.
ADVISE THE EMPLOYEE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF NONDISCLOSURE, e.g.
"I will attempt to keep the matter confidential as possible and I ask that you do the same so that we can get the facts and resolve the matter." Have the employee sign the confidentiality statement.
III. DETERMINE APPROPRIATE INITIAL RESPONSE TO COMPLAINT PENDING INVESTIGATION.
IN CONSULTATION WITH DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES:
determine if harassing party needs to be removed from the immediate work area on an immediate/temporary basis
what level of investigation is necessary and appropriate
should the investigation be conducted by a manager or human resources director
should legal counsel be contacted. What is the likelihood of future litigation?
IV. INTERVIEW THE ALLEGED HARASSER.
Make every effort to make the person comfortable with the process.
Assure the alleged harasser of your commitment to be objective and to get to the truth.
Identify the specific allegation(s) and obtain responses.
Identify witnesses and their observations.
Identify statements or conduct that may have been misinterpreted.
Determine if complaining party had any motivation to falsely accuse the alleged harasser.
Obtain copies of all relevant documentation.
DO NOT MAKE ANY PROMISES OR VOICE PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS.
Ask the alleged harasser to identify all persons to be interviewed.
Explain the necessity of limited disclosure. Do not promise confidentiality. Have the alleged harasser sign confidentiality statement.
Advise the alleged harasser of what to expect during the process and continue to involve him/her during the process.
Advise the alleged harasser of the prohibition against retaliation against the complainant or witnesses and the importance of avoiding even the hint of such action.
V. INTERVIEW ALL POTENTIAL WITNESSES
Interview all witnesses, not just those identified by the parties.
Determine the amount of disclosure about the complaint and the identity of the parties as necessary to conduct a meaningful investigation. Disclose on a need-to-know basis.
Advise each witness of the context and his/her roll so they understand that they are not being investigated.
Ask potential witnesses to identify any other witnesses.
Explore with witness:
Observations of interactions between alleged harasser and alleged victim
Personal experiences with each party
Whether alleged victim ever discussed harassment with witness
Corroborating evidence - e-mails, letters, memos.
Explain to witness the necessity of maintaining confidentiality of the investigation.
Have witness sign confidentiality statement.
VI. INTERVIEW ALLEGED HARASSER AND/OR COMPLAINING PARTY AGAIN IF
NECESSARY IN CONCERT WITH DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES
Ask the hard questions.
Explain process to date and ask each if they have determined if there is anyone who needs to be interviewed.
Determine if each is satisfied with the scope of the investigation.
Advise each of the next step in the process.
VII. REVIEW THE EVIDENCE TO DETERMINE IF ANY FORM OF ILLEGAL
HARASSMENT HAS OCCURRED
IN CONCERT WITH DIVISION DIRECTOR AND DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES
Was the harassment based on the person's race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or the presence of any physical, mental or sensory disability?
Was submission to or rejection of such conduct by the complaining party used as a basis for an adverse employment decision?
Was the conduct unwelcome?
Was the conduct based on gender?
From the perspective of a reasonable woman/reasonable man, was the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or conditions of the complaining party's employment?
Was the alleged harasser a manager or director?
If unsure of potential liability, consult legal counsel for advice.
VIII. IN CONCERT WITH HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR DETERMINE
APPROPRIATE REMEDIAL ACTION
Counseling or training
If it cannot be determined whether misconduct occurred, provide alleged harasser with a memo stating that employer has been unable to determine what actually occurred, but that serious allegations of harassment have been made. Include information to:
Restate the organization's Anti-Harassment Policy.
Make it clear you won't tolerate such conduct.
Stress that if misconduct occurs in the future or if future evidence is revealed that supports the initial allegation, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
Reiterate that retaliation against complaining party will not be tolerated.
IX. BRING MATTER TO CLOSE
Advise the complaining party and the alleged harasser of the outcome of the investigation and the corrective action, if any, to be taken.
If appropriate, write an investigative report, documenting the process and the findings.
Do not share the investigative report with either party. Keep the report for the organization's records.
Stress the organization's non-retaliation policy for both parties. Let the complaining party know who to come to should she/he perceive retaliation.
Ask both parties for their feedback: Did they feel the process was thorough and fair?
Are they satisfied with the outcome?
If appropriate, work on the "healing" process with the work group to ensure that there is not retaliation and that the team is again able to productively work together.
IF AT ANY STAGE IN THE INVESTIGATION YOU ARE UNCERTAIN ABOUT ANYTHING, CONTACT HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR OR DIVISION DIRECTOR.