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The receptionist accused another employee of sexual harassment. It is a serious allegation. After a failed attempt to mediate the situation, the complaint was investigated. The complaint was upheld.

Do you fire the harasser immediately or do you ask that person to take a sensitivity workshop? Do you transfer the harasser to another department? Do you threaten dismissal if similar behaviour takes place again?

If no action is taken the credibility of the policy will be destroyed.

How do you decide what action to take against a harasser? What are the criteria that you need to weigh to assess an appropriate sanction?

If a thorough investigation was conducted, you should have enough information to properly assess the gravity of the harassment.

Sanction Assessment Criteria

The following criteria should be used when deciding on disciplinary action:

It is important to recognize that "intent" is not at issue in assessing whether or not the alleged behaviour was harassment (ie. "I didn't mean anything by it,..."). But when considering a sanction, intent can be factored into the decision making process.

The type of sanction asked for by the victim can also have a significant, but not absolute, impact on what action is taken. When a victim asks for a limited sanction, such as an apology, the policy response may be limited. Usually, an investigation is not required. Instead efforts are made to meet the need of the complainant through informal conciliation. On the other hand, if the complainant demands that the alleged harasser be fired, a more formal approach must be taken. If the harassment was severe and the allegation was upheld, dismissal must be considered.

In all cases, whatever sanction is being considered, the corporate interest relating to liability and a healthy, productive workplace must be assessed. Even if the victim wants a limited sanction, the severity of the harassment may demand a harsher penalty.

The penalty imposed should reflect the Sanction Assessment Criteria analysis as suggested above. The range of individual actions may include:

Other possible actions include:

From the June, 1997 Edition of Sexual Harassment Policy Update


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