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Q&A: We’ve become aware of an allegation that an employee has been harassed at work, but the employee doesn’t want to file a complaint…

Question:

We’ve become aware of an allegation that an employee has been harassed at work, but the employee doesn’t want to file a complaint. Do we need the employee’s consent to investigate the matter?

Answer from Jenny, SPHR, SHRM-SCP:

No. If you or any of your managers become aware that harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, or any other illegal activity has or may have occurred, you are legally required to investigate and take steps to stop the behavior. Knowing about this kind of behavior (and taking insufficient action) can make you liable, so you should investigate and stop any questionable behavior even if the victim doesn’t want to cooperate.

That said, if the employee merely has a general gripe or complaint that seems to indicate a simple personality conflict, then you may defer to the employee’s wishes on whether to act. Minor conflicts between employees may cause discontent in the workplace, but they don’t obligate you as the employer to investigate and resolve the issue.

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Over her 15 years of experience, Jenny has specialized in helping small to mid-sized businesses across a variety of industries reduce their risks and manage employee relations issues. Jenny holds a Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Georgia State University.

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