Sometimes, all it takes to stop sexual harassment (or behavior that could escalate to harassment) is to tell the individual to cut it out. But you’ll never know if it worked unless you follow up. You should periodically check back with those affected and note their response in your files. That’s your proof that your intervention was effective.
Recent case: Dianne Kean worked as a massage therapist. When a new therapist arrived, he began making off-color remarks that Kean found sexually offensive. She complained to the company owners, who told the new therapist to act professionally and quit the sex talk. Then they regularly followed up with Kean and other staff members to make sure the behavior stopped.
Later, after Kean was fired, she sued, alleging sexual harassment.
The court threw out the case. It reasoned that the owners took prompt and effective action that stopped any harassment. Therefore, they weren’t liable. (Kean v. IT-Works, No. 10-2512, 6th Cir., 2012)
Final note: As this case shows, sometimes just a word or two with the accused harasser will stop the behavior. It isn’t always necessary to take drastic action unless the employee happens to be a supervisor. What counts is that your action is effective—that it stops the offensive behavior. By tracking the follow-up, you ensure that the problem was solved.
The worst thing you can do is to ignore the original complaint altogether.