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‘Anonymous’ harassment: How to respond when harasser is faceless and nameless

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

In some cases, employees are harassed via scrawled words on a wall, voice mail messages or some other shadowy act. You may never be able to pinpoint the culprit, but you must still do something—if only to show that your company doesn’t approve.

Begin by opening an investigation, just as you would for any other complaint. Then remind all employees—via e-mail or staff meeting—about your anti-harassment policies and how seriously you take harassment. If the allegations are serious enough, contact police.

Recent case: Samir Latif, an Egyptian native, was a community college professor in Maryland. He said someone he couldn’t identify had left threatening notes calling him racist names. It was impossible to identify the culprit, since the notes were left in areas that anyone could access.

The administration responded with a campuswide e-mail reminding everyone of the policy to treat others with respect. The e-mail asked students to come forward with any evidence about this or other hate crimes. The college also reported the incidents to police.

After Latif was terminated for unrelated reasons, he sued, alleging that he’d been forced to work in a hostile environment. Not so, said the court. The college had done all it could to respond and prevent further actions. (Latif v. Community College of Baltimore, No. 08-2023, 4th Cir., 2009)

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