My friend asked me for an advice, and indeed I don't know what to say to him or what to advise:

He is managing a team of 10 members in one open area office (males and females).

One of the female members came to him complaining that one of the male members is sexually harassing her, whenever he has a chance that no evidence against him exists (for example in the kitchen, in the smoking area and so on). He follows her whenever he thinks that nobody is around and annoys her by sexual jokes or body language!

She is claiming that she tries to be away from any place he is in, but she is feeling that he is undressing her by his eyesight!

His concerns are:

  • She has no evidence against this guy.
  • Sometimes, some people are too sensitive and might be overstating the case. So, this girl might be measuring the case in a wrong way.
  • There is no HR department in his company to escalate the issue to.

What could he do to get this settled from the point of view of a manager (not of a jurist)?

  • 2
    Your friend needs to report this immediately to his director, human resources, and document every conversation he has had with the complainant ASAP. Do not try to "Settle." The worst thing he can do, long-term, is try to "sweep it under the rug." Most likely HR has policies and procedures in place, if they've been doing their job at all. But, sorry - VTC because this is way too close to asking legal advice. – Wesley Long Feb 23 '15 at 22:23
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    I don't see this as asking for legal advice so much as asking how to handle as a manager who has never dealt with a serious personnel issue before. The single worst thing he can do is ignore the complaint though. – HLGEM Feb 23 '15 at 22:55
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    @WesleyLong, the question is not related to LEGAL action. it is about how to manage the case away of lawsuits – WEB Feb 24 '15 at 3:23
  • @LinaRamiz - If your friend is not considering the legal ramifications, they are in seriously over their heads. – Wesley Long Feb 24 '15 at 4:52
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    but my friend believes that she is honest because she has nothing to gain by lying This is quite silly, if I can be blunt. – o0'. Feb 24 '15 at 10:19

A manager has to take any such accusation seriously. However any well-run business will have a process for handling these types of claims. As a manager, he should first go to HR and ask for direction on how harrassment claims should be handled. The main thing is that he needs to make sure the process is followed to ensure the company does not get into legal trouble for how it treats either party in this.

In general the first step is usually to have the person directly tell the other person to stop harassing her. If that doesn't work, then you need to have the person follow up in writing. She should come to the manager with a list of dates and times and an account of the incidents. She should be able to tell him exactly when she told the other person to stop it. It is important to document what is happening even if no one can see it.

In the meantime the manager should be looking out for how these two interact and see if he can see evidence. In particular, if the woman gets up and then the man gets up and follows her, the manager may want to do so as well. If he hears any sexual innuendo from this person anywhere in the office whether the woman is present or not, he should be told in no uncertain terms that such things are not appropriate in the workplace. Of course, if you tell him that he can't make those kinds of comments, you have to make sure you don't let others say such things without a similar warning. The manager might also consider sexual harrassment training for all of the team, so that it is clear what is and is not harrassment and what actions can be taken if someone complains.

You may also want to make sure these two people are not assigned to work together if at all possible until this is resolved.

Since this kind of behavior can escalate to actual rape very quickly, the woman may want to make sure she does not go places like the parking lot alone especially if she works late at night.

If the person persists after being directly told to stop, then the manager can step in after ensuring the woman does in fact want to make a formal complaint and is aware that the person will be told details of what he is accused of doing and that while you will maintain confidentiality, the person who is accused may not. Then he would call a meeting with the accuseed, usually with an HR person in attendance, and tell the person what he is accused of and ask for his side of the story. Then after hearing his side of the story, the manager can decide what actions to take. It coudl range from no action, to an inofrmal warning to avoid being alone with this person to a warning in his personnnel file to a suspention to being fired depending on what the details are and how much of a threat he seems to be. Any actions taken shoud be only after consulting with HR (Or a lawyer represnting the company of you have no HR).

If you have no HR, the manager needs to go to the CEO of the company and tell him there is a problem and ask that a lawyer be consulted. This is to protect the company from being sued.

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