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When Businesses Should Investigate Workplace Harassment

Aug 28, 2023

A safe and respectful work environment is crucial for the success of any business. However, incidents of workplace harassment can disrupt this harmony and lead to serious consequences for both employees and the organization. To maintain a healthy workplace culture, protect the well-being of their employees and limit exposure to lawsuits, businesses need to be proactive in addressing employee complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in Florida. The following discusses situations in which businesses should conduct investigations into workplace harassment with a third party workplace investigator.

1. Allegations or Complaints

The most obvious trigger for initiating a workplace harassment investigation is when an employee files a formal complaint or raises allegations of harassment. These complaints could be related to various forms of harassment, such as sexual, verbal, or psychological. It is essential for businesses to take these claims seriously and conduct a thorough investigation to ensure justice is served and a safe work environment is maintained. There are also other instances which are less obvious which may also trigger the need for an investigation. These include allegations of unfair treatment, improper comments, jokes or touching, or actions which may lead to inappropriate activity.

 2. Patterns of Behavior

Even without a formal complaint, businesses should consider launching an investigation when they notice a pattern of behavior that suggests harassment is occurring. This might involve repeated instances of inappropriate comments, gestures, or actions targeting a particular employee or group. Addressing such patterns early can prevent the escalation of harassment and foster a culture of respect.

 3. Anonymous Reports

Anonymous reports of workplace harassment should not be dismissed. Employees might fear retaliation or have valid reasons for not revealing their identities. Businesses should investigate such reports to determine their validity and take appropriate actions to address the alleged harassment. Management should also be aware of how to identify an employee complaint and what to do to address it or direct the complaint to the proper person.

 4. Leadership or Management Involvement

When managers, supervisors, or other leaders are implicated in allegations of harassment, a thorough investigation is imperative. High-ranking individuals have a significant influence on the workplace culture, and their behavior sets an example for others. An investigation demonstrates that no one is above the organization's commitment to preventing harassment.

 5. Legal and Regulatory Obligations

Businesses are often legally required to investigate workplace harassment under anti-discrimination laws and regulations. Failure to do so can result in legal liability and damage to the company's reputation. Conducting an investigation not only fulfills legal obligations but also showcases a commitment to ethical and respectful practices.

Workplace harassment investigations are essential tools for maintaining a positive work environment and demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being. By promptly addressing allegations, patterns of behavior, anonymous reports, hostile environments, leadership involvement, and legal obligations, businesses can foster a workplace culture that values respect, diversity, and equality. Ultimately, a thorough investigation process reflects the organization's dedication to upholding its values and creating a space where employees can thrive without fear of harassment.

For more information on workplace investigations in Florida, reach out to the Palm Beach County based employment firm, The Wannos Law Firm, P.A. and schedule an informational consultation.

You can also download the free resource: The Employers Guide to Conducting an Investigation of Harassment.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. Please consult with an employment lawyer before making an important business decisions.

The Wannos Law Firm, P.A. provides legal advice to Florida businesses. Karly Wannos is a workplace investigator for claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, Florida employment law mediator and provides training to businesses on employment laws. 

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