Overview of Workplace Investigations and the Law
In cases where a supervisor has engaged in unlawful harassment, an employer can escape liability if no tangible employment action (e.g., an actual change that has an actual adverse effect on the job or working conditions, such as termination, suspension, demotion, transfer, denial of increase or reduction in pay) has occurred as long as the employer can demonstrate that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment, and the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of internal complaint mechanisms or to otherwise avoid harm.
Equally as important, in cases where a co-worker engages in the unlawful harassment and the employer knew or should have known it was occurring, an employer can protect itself if it can demonstrate that it implemented immediate and effective measures to end the harassment and prevent future occurrences.
This overview provides general guidelines on how to conduct an internal discrimination/harassment investigation so that a future observer (i.e., administrative agency, Court, jury) will consider it reasonable.
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