Sexual Harassment Investigation Quiz

October 7, 2008

I presented to a group a while back and used some scenarios to prompt discussion about best practices in dealing with Sexual Harassment complaints. The result was a very fun and engaging conversation.

Many people from the group asked for a copy of the quiz to use in their trainings. Here is just one of the scenarios with the discussion points.

The “He Said-She Said” Sexual Harassment Scenario

Jane works for Bob. After successfully completing a project, Bob tells Jane he will treat her to lunch. The next day, Jane sends an email to Bob’s supervisor: “Yesterday, Bob asked me to go to lunch with him. I was not sure that was right, but he’s my boss. At lunch, he propositioned me. I want something done about this.”
The supervisor knows Bob to be a dedicated family man. He does not know Jane very well, but has no reason to believe she is a liar. He calls Bob, and tells him what Jane said. Bob is outraged, and denies everything. The supervisor then calls Jane and tells her that Bob denies the accusation. He asks if there were any witnesses. Jane says there weren’t, but swears that what she said is true.

Faced with a “he said-she said situation”, the supervisor puts a memo in their files, and tells them both to act responsibly, and avoid any future situations that might cause problems.

Was Bob’s supervisor correct in conducting the investigation?

YES NO

The story states that the supervisor knows bob well but does not know Jane very well. It is always best to have someone who is unbiased conduct the investigation. He should have either went to the HR department or (if no HR) hired an outside consultant to investigate.

Did Bob handle the investigation properly by only speaking to Bob and Jane?

YES NO

Even though the story states that there were no witnesses to this particular incident it is always a good idea to conduct interviews with various people who have contact with the people involved. This may just be a symptom of a chronic problem that needs to be addressed.

Since the case turned out to be a “he said-she said” and no harassment was proven, was the supervisor correct in only documenting the claim and results of the investigation?

YES NO

Both parties are clearly uncomfortable at this point. In order to avoid retaliation against Jane or further issues, I would try to move Jane under a different supervisor or into a different department….Although, one would have to be very careful that Jane was onboard with the move and would not be losing anything as it could be construed as retaliation if she viewed it as a demotion of any sort.

Remember that these are just the best answers in my opinion and should not be looked at as legal advice as I am not a lawyer. I designed this quiz to create conversation around best practices…not really to be a step-by-step guide. Every situation is different and you should always consult with an HR professional or an attorney on a case-by-case situation.

If you run into this type of situation or want to conduct a preventative training, People Wise can help. http://www.pwhrm.com

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