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Five steps for investigating a complaint
By G. Michael Barton, SPHR
Vice President of Human Resources
Regional Medical Center
Once personal harassment has been spotted, it is important to address it immediately. Follow these five steps when investigating a personal harassment complaint:
Step one: Find out what happened.
All individuals involved in the alleged harassment should be interviewed to pinpoint what occurred. A member of the human resources department or the corporate compliance officer should conduct the investigation.
Step two: Develop a corrective action plan.
If it is determined that a violation occurred, a corrective action plan should be developed that identifies what is appropriate to rectify the situation. For example, if it is determined that a supervisor harassed an employee, the action plan may include using appropriate training resources to assist the individual in recognizing and correcting the inappropriate behavior.
Step three: Establish clear goals.
In the above example, the supervisor must demonstrate clearly that employee relations have improved after the training is completed. This could be determined by using confidential surveys or individual interviews with employees, conducted by the human resources department or the corporate compliance officer.
The immediate goal should be to resolve the employee’s complaint as quickly as possible. All other goals should focus on improving the work environment and eliminating the threat of personal harassment.
Step four: Set a timetable.
The individuals involved should have a specific time limit for taking corrective action. In serious cases, there should be a short timetable to resolve the complaint, such as immediately or within 72 hours. The timetable should never exceed 90 days because the original action soon will be forgotten. Obviously, making an organizationwide change involving personal harassment will involve a longer time frame. The timetable should not be open-ended in any case. Personal harassment is an important issue and should receive immediate and consistent attention.
Step five: Determine whether the plan was successful.
Interview all parties involved in the alleged harassment to make sure the complaint has been resolved. If the complaint involved a supervisor, monitor the supervisor’s behavior and determine if changes were made.
If the complaint involved an employee, make sure there is a commitment to sustain the changed behavior. Gather information from various members in the work group to determine if the problem truly has been rectified.
Source: Regional Medical Center, Madisonville, KY.