Sexual Harassment: Questions for Sexual Harassment Investigations

What do you do when an employee files a sexual harassment complaint? The
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends that you (1)
question both parties in detail; and (2) probe deeply for corroborative
evidence. Here is a checklist to help in following these EEOC

Analyze the victim's story for sufficient detail, internal consistency, and

Do not attach much significance to a general denial by the accused harasser.

Search completely and thoroughly for evidence that corroborates either
side's story.

You can do this by (1) interviewing co-workers, supervisors, and managers;
(2) obtaining testimony from individuals who observed the accuser's demeanor
immediately after the alleged incident of harassment; and (3) checking out
people with whom the alleged victim discussed the incident (e.g.,
co-workers, a doctor, or a counselor).

Ask other employees if they noticed changes in the accusing individual's
behavior at work or in the alleged harasser's treatment of him or her.

Look for evidence of other complaints, either by the victim or other employees.

Follow up on evidence that other employees were sexually harassed by the
same person.

In order to make a fair and legal decision on a sexual harassment complaint,
you need to find out as much information as you can, not only on the
incident itself, but also on the victim's and accuser's personalities,
surroundings, and relationships. To accomplish this task, you need to not
only ask many questions of the victim and accuser, but also of any witnesses
to the incident and the surrounding environment. Here are some questions to
get you started in your investigation.

To The Victim -- Background
What kind of work do you do for the company?
What is your job title?
How long have you worked for the company?
Who is your supervisor?

Specific To The Incident
What happened?
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?
What preceded the incident?
What did the harasser do or say?
What did you do or say?
What happened in addition to or since the incident?
Who may have seen or heard the incident
With whom have you discussed the incident?

To The Accused -- Background
How do you communicate with your employees or co-workers (memos, meetings, one-on-one, etc.)?
How would you describe the workplace environment in your department?
Is the atmosphere pretty relaxed and easy-going?
How do you assign projects to your employees?
Does your department work much overtime
How well do you know the employees in your department?
Has anything happened lately to disrupt the department's harmony?

Specific To The Incident
Are you attracted to (name the employee)?
Do you ever think of (name the employee) in a sexual way?
Have you ever touched (name the employee)?
Have you tried to kiss (name the employee)?
(Describe the alleged incident.) Please give me your version of the incident.
Did you offer (name the employee) help with his/her career in exchange for his/her affection?

To The Witness(es) -- Background
What is the general workplace atmosphere like in the employee's group
What style of communication is used by the employee? His or her supervisor
Other employees?
What is the supervisor's managerial style?
How is important information provided to employees?
Are there any problems within the department?
Have co-workers complained about inappropriate behavior in the department?
Have you personally noticed or been offended by inappropriate behavior?
Please describe any inappropriate or offensive behavior that you have experienced or witnessed.
Are there any calendar pictures or posters displayed which offend you or someone else?
Have offensive jokes or comments been made about people in the department?
(If the answer to the above question is yes then ask.) Who made these remarks and what was said?

Specific To The Incident
(Describe the time and place of the incident, then ask.) Did you notice anything in your department that may have disturbed you or another employee?
Did you hear a conversation involving (name the employee)?
Did you see anyone talking to this employee?
Did you observe any interaction between this employee and a co-worker? A supervisor?

To The Investigator
Once you have finished conducting your investigation, you can ask yourself the following questions to put all the information you have gathered in perspective.
Is the testimony of the victim internally consistent?
Is the testimony of the accused internally consistent?
Does each follow logically?
Are both accounts externally consistent?
Is the victim's account consistent with the testimony of witnesses?
Is the accused's account consistent with the testimony of witnesses?
Did the accused have time to do what the victim alleged?
Does the victim have any possible motive for falsely implicating the accused?
Could have the harassment happened at the time and location specified?
Despite the fact that there were no witnesses, could the harassment have taken place at the time and the location?