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November 26, 2007

Comments

HR Wench

No this is not sexual harassment...but it can become sexual harassment when it grows up.

Since it does have that potential, yes it is an HR issue.

It sounds like the workplace doesn't have a policy and procedure in place for reporting potential harassment of any kind. They need to get one right away. They should consult a local attorney to make sure local laws are considered as well as federal.

If this particular situation occurred at my company I would tell the employee that she needs to tell the director that his behavior makes her uncomfortable and she would like it to stop.

Most people refuse to do this "on their own". So I will then give the "complainer" the option of having me there when they say it.

If they won't do that then I ask them what they want me to do about the situation. Usually they say "tell the person for me". I admit, I do it for them if I can't convince them how much more effective it will be coming from them but I digress.

If they say "do nothing" then I tell them the next time they want me to do nothing to not bother telling me about it in the first place.

If they agree to having me there for support when they tell the person I arrange a short meeting between the two employees and myself. The "complainer" then has the opportunity to tell the "perpatrator" their behavior makes them uncomfortable and needs to stop. I nip in the bud any "but I don't...I didn't....what are you talking about...etc" comments. I let them know I'm not there to do an investigation at this time and no one is in trouble. I am merely there because one employee requested support in communicating something sensitive (with potential!) to another employee. It usually works out in that the "perpatrator" had (or alleges) they had no idea what they did offended anyone and it's the last time it happens. Oh and they are mortified beyond belief. So they are way above board with everything for the next few months.

If the behavior repeats itself it is time for an investigation. If there is no policy and procedure on this I suggest utilizing an attorney or outsourced HR consultant that specializes in investigations.

Let us know how it works out!

The Career Encourager

HR Wench -

Thanks for your reply. You raise some good points, esp. about checking to see what - if any - policy already exists to cover potentially harassing situations and also confirming exactly what the employee hoped to gain from telling HR.

Do you think there is a legit way to check out the question about whether the Director's behavior is consistent no matter who he is with, or if it is targeted towards Leah? And would these two scenarios lead to substantially different solutions?

~ Career Encourager

HR Wench

Sure there is a legit way to check out whether or not the director's behavior is consistent. The HR Manager herself needs to "do a couple of drive-bys" as I call them. See if the director does it in front of her. Enlisting in the aid of others to do this could be very dangerous however. If she has professional level HR folks that work for her that she 100% trusts she can enlist their confidential help as well.
But really it doesn't matter if the director is targetting one employee or a few employees or no employees. His behavior is inappropriate AND causes at least one employee such discomfort she is reporting it to HR. HR has a duty to take the allegation seriously and do something about it now.

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