Q. We're afraid that one of our employees may have been subjected to discriminatory behavior. But she hasn't filed a complaint. What should we do? Do we have an obligation to bring it up and investigate, even if she declines? —S.P., Louisiana
A. Here's the golden rule on suspected discrimination: investigate, don't litigate. Courts have said that you're required to launch an investigation whenever you know, or reasonably should have known, of workplace harassment. This means you can't turn a blind eye to discriminatory behavior and rely on the “she didn't tell us about it” defense. Nor can you defend yourself by asserting that the victim didn't want you to investigate.
Remember: Investigations are a key factor for minimizing liability.
- Comment alone won't support hostile environment claim
- Cut no slack just because employee won award
- No employee handbook or written policy? Good luck proving you take harassment seriously
- Be alert to employment law issues related to older employees
- When romance goes bad: Protecting the company from the fallout