A political cover-up usually gets people in bigger trouble than the crime itself. The same is true in the workplace. Trying to sweep employee misbehavior under the rug will only dig a deeper hole.
Recent example: An 18-year-old Pizza Hut delivery worker was grilled by his supervisor for losing a sales ticket. The supervisor accused him of trying to pocket the money and suggested a punishment, a spanking and recitation of a prayer. The supervisor asked the worker to join him in the men's room. Fearing for his job, the worker complied and, while locked in the restroom, was directed to lower his pants and spank himself.
The next day, the employee reported the incident to restaurant. The supervisor was immediately suspended and never returned to work. Still, the worker sued, alleging a hostile work environment based upon sex under Title VII.
But the court dismissed the complaint. Reason: While the supervisor's unbelievable conduct clearly created a hostile work environment, the court said there was nothing Pizza Hut should have done differently to remedy the situation. It responded quickly when the employee complained, the manager was promptly suspended and the employee never had to work with him again. (Yerry v. Pizza Hut of Southeast Kansas, No. 00-CV-1131, N.D.N.Y., 2002)
Advice: It's hard to overemphasize the importance of responding quickly, appropriately and decisively to charges of harassment. Your employees should have a copy of your anti-harassment policy, and there should be a clear, step-by-step complaint procedure. Train managers how to investigate complaints and follow that procedure to the letter.