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What happens next? An alleged harassment victim doesn’t want to come forward

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. An employee contacted a regional VP and told him a co-worker had been crying at work. She confided that their boss, a division director, had invited the co-worker to have a drink in his hotel room while they were attending a conference. When she declined, the boss became angry. Now, the boss has reported the co-worker for leaving work early without permission. The employee told the VP she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her friend, but she can’t let this go without telling someone. She says the co-worker refuses to come forward herself out of fear of retaliation. What should we do?

A. The employee’s report to a VP-level manager in the organization means the company is on notice of possible sexual harassment. When someone with apparent or actual authority to act on behalf of a company learns of possible harassment, that triggers a legal duty to promptly investigate the complaint and take timely and appropriate remedial action, even if the complaining employee refuses to come forward.

The complaint may turn out to be without merit, but you must demonstrate that you took the situation seriously and responded appropriately.

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