Should we change our policy to require that all harassment complaints be made in writing?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. Our new plant manager wants me to revise our sexual harassment policy to require employees to submit complaints in writing. He says this will formalize the procedure and help ensure that only valid complaints are filed. I don’t think this is a good idea. Is it?

A. No, it’s not a good idea. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, an employer can be held liable for sexual harassment by supervisors even when it did not know of the conduct. If the harassing conduct is by a co-worker, the employer can also be held liable if it knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take appropriate corrective action.

For those reasons, employers must investigate and address all complaints of sexual harassment, whether made orally or in writing.

Limiting investigations and corrective action only to situations in which the complaint is in writing falls short of an employer’s obligation under these laws and can create an unnecessary risk of liability.

One other point: Be sure your anti-harassment policy isn’t limited to just sexual harassment, but includes harassment on the basis of any protected category, such as race, religion, age, disability, etc.

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