When you learn of harassment allegations in your company, your first instinct is to react. Put aside for a moment what the action you eventually take might be or which “side” you take. The first moments after news of such an allegation are always emotional and reactionary.
To be clear, if you do not properly investigate harassment, you may leave yourself in significant legal jeopardy. You should take the time to investigate any claims of harassment or misconduct fully, but there are some considerations you should make:
Look for facts
An investigation into harassment will hang on the facts of the matter. If there is video, written evidence or witnesses, you must closely review these things. However, you must stay aware of the fine line between evidence and supposition. You cannot act on “gut feelings” and “suspicions.” You must have hard facts.
Every statement. Every action. Every email. Everything that you find, say and do must be clearly and accurately documented. You cannot conceal evidence. You cannot ignore things. You must ensure you leave a large, easily followed paper trail.
Withhold judgment entirely
Ultimately, you may not have any say in the decision. You might be able to remove someone for cause, but it is necessary to proceed there with caution. You must protect the company first and foremost.
Consider finding a third-party investigator.
Because this can be emotionally fraught, it may be necessary to find a third party to handle this completely. They can ensure a legally consistent, competent, impartial investigation that you can trust.