Determining Credibility During a Harassment Investigation

Issues like harassment in the workplace can be very uncomfortable, nerve-racking, and even a bit unsettling for company owners, managers, and employees themselves whenever they come to light in any office. While QBS always recommends having a harassment policy in place, unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean that it won’t or can’t happen at your office.

But remember, if you find yourself faced with a harassment claim, QBS is here to help.

Below you will find information on how to determine credibility during a harassment investigation.

SCENARIO:

We suspect that one of our employees harassed another, but we only have their conflicting stories to go on—no witnesses, video, or emails. The accuser’s account of the incident seems much more credible than that of the accused. Can we discipline with only this information?

ANSWER FROM MONICA, SPHR, SHRM-CP:

Probably. It would be a good idea to consider whether your investigation was thorough. If it was, and all you have to go on is the testimony of the accuser and the accused, then you should take their credibility into consideration and make a determination based on their respective accounts.

Here are some factors to consider when determining credibility:

  • Each employee’s reputation for truthfulness and accuracy
  • If the story each employee presents is plausible
  • Whether one of the employees has a motive to be untruthful
  • Whether one employee’s statements regarding the incident are more detailed and consistent

 

While disciplining an accused employee who did nothing wrong would be unfortunate, it wouldn’t be illegal. As in all cases of alleged harassment, it’s best to have documentation of the allegations, the steps of your investigation, your conclusions, and any disciplinary actions you took.

ABOUT MONICA: Monica has held roles as an HR Generalist and Payroll and Benefits manager at a large ski resort, providing HR guidance to more than 500 employees. She also has HR experience in the healthcare field and the non-profit world. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Linfield College.

The above is part of our QBS HR Snapshot emails that are sent periodically to clients who utilize our HR Support Center. These provide a “real-time” look at trending HR topics.  For more information on how you can gain access, contact us today!