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What’s scope of sexual harassment investigation?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. We are looking into an allegation of sexual harassment. According to the alleged victim, after she came forward, other employees began telling her they had similar problems with the alleged harasser. None of those incidents was ever reported. Must we expand our investigation to include the unreported incidents? Where do we draw the line?

Neither the EEOC nor the Michigan Department of Civil Rights recognizes any line beyond which employers are not obligated to investigate and stop harassment. The courts are on the same page.

As a practical matter, the fact that the victim has heard from other sources that her alleged harasser has a history may substantiate her claims that the alleged harasser in fact harassed her. (This may or may not be logical. The fact that I ran a red light on Tuesday cannot be used as evidence that I ran a red light on Wednesday.)

If there have been no reports of harassment in the past, you may still be able to defend yourself—as long as you investigate and take remedial action. But prior acts, whether known or not, will be considered relevant by any investigating authority.

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