What Should my Company do After I Complain About Sexual Harassment?

*This is a transcript of the Facebook Live video from 4-6-18  Click here to watch the video.

The final question is, what should my supervisor and company do after I complain about sexual harassment? The law requires them to take prompt, appropriate remedial measures. What that means is the company should do an investigation. If they determine that there was a violation, then they should address that situation. That can be done in a variety of ways. I’ll be honest with you and say frequently, my clients are less than overwhelmed with the company’s choice of prompt, appropriate, remedial measures, and they disagree. They don’t think they go far enough. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong about that. What you want the company to do is address your complaint in a good-faith way that’s calculated to remove the offensive conduct and to create a better working environment. That can take the forms of a lot of things.

One is it can take the form of a discipline against the alleged harasser. It can include training for the unit at issue or for the whole company, for that matter. There could be some financial component to it, although that’s very rare in the prompt, appropriate remedial measure forum, but it sometimes does happen. Sometimes back pay or promotion pay is appropriate if the company determines that you were disciplined or denied a promotion improperly and that it cost you money. Sometimes companies will reimburse you for that sort of thing. That’s definitely something you should ask for you in your complaint if and when they ask you, “Well, what is your goal? What’s your appropriate remedial measure here?”

One thing I’ll say that is not universal but things that I frequently see is I think, many times, victims have an expectation that the company will come back to them and report on the outcome of their investigation or report to them on what the appropriate remedial measures were. The law is a little murky on whether they’re required to do that. I can tell you that, frequently, companies don’t make those reports back, and I think it’s a mistake. At least on the level that, frequently, victims find out only much later that the company took certain actions. If they had known that the company had taken those actions early on, they may have been less inclined to pursue legal actions. So companies are not required to … They’re also not required, necessarily, to maintain a high level of confidentiality. I’ll say that that’s a tough road for a well-meaning company to walk. Their inclination is they want this to be confidential. They don’t want to smear the name of either the victim or the alleged harasser. Over the course of the investigation, that can be hard to keep that confidential if the questions suggest what has been going on or everybody knows what’s been going on because it’s just a notorious situation in the company or in the unit.

I find, frequently, that my clients have preexisting expectations on the level of confidentiality, and sometimes those expectations conflict. They expect a lot of confidentiality for themselves, but they don’t expect a lot of confidentiality for the harasser. In other words, they want to know what happened to the harasser. Sometimes we have to really have long conversations about that. Again, every situation is different. That’s something that you want to talk to your lawyer about and get that out on the table sooner rather than later. Again, I find that sometimes when those expectations aren’t meant in the way my client expects them to be met, that causes problems later on with resolving the case, because my client has some unresolved issues related to the way they were treated with regards to the investigation and the way the case was handled, particularly if they’re not given a report on the outcome. Weeks or months go by and nothing happens.

Frequently, people translate that into, well, I made this complaint and nothing ever happened about it. Well, that may not be accurate. All too often, frequently, that’s exactly what happened, they made the complaint and nothing happened about it, but sometimes I find that the company did, in fact, take some appropriate remedial action. They, for whatever reason, decided not to tell the complainant about it and, in fact, in some cases, even stiff-armed them and said, “We’re not going to discuss any of this with you. Thank you for your complaint, and we’ll get back to you if we need to get back to you.” That’s the main thing that companies are required to do, is take that quick, prompt, appropriate remedial action. If they do that, then that may mean no matter how bad the pre-complaint conduct was, that there’s no complaint going forward if the conduct stopped as of that complaint.

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