As a nonprofit leader, you have an obligation to approach “harassment” with three key factors in mind— prevention, investigation and willingness to address. Investigations of harassment in the workplace can come in many shapes and sizes, meaning they can originate from a wide variety of topics—such as discrimination, substance abuse, harassment or workplace safety. While each investigation can be different and may have different formalities attached to it—standards should be in place to ensure a thorough investigation is applied to each incident.
It is important to respond immediately when an allegation of harassment surfaces. This can help prevent any new acts from taking place and will help with maintaining the trust of your employees. At the same point, you should be reaching out for professional guidance to ensure that all aspects of a harassment claim is carried out appropriately—reaching out to your insurance carrier to provide a “notice of a potential claim.” This is a common move for nonprofits since the insurance company can offer resources and the expertise of legal counsel. Another option is hiring a third-party human resource firm that has experience with handling harassment investigations. Lastly, a nonprofit may decide to handle the investigation in house utilizing its’ own staff with guidance from various legal resources.
Each investigation should be handled promptly, documented, thorough and remain confidential. Your nonprofit should always aim for consistency and consider how to best provide “due process.” This also includes, informing those involved with the outcome of the investigation once it has concluded. Being transparent about the outcome, actions or steps being taken to address a situation, will give your nonprofit the opportunity to demonstrate follow through of its own policies, while remaining confidential and maintaining privacy for those involved.
As a nonprofit, you are required to maintain the safety of your employees by creating a safe working environment—and with that comes the responsibility of acting promptly when approached with a harassment claim. Whether it’s the CEO or an associate being investigated, it should be carried out in the same manner and properly conducted. This will determine that the appropriate policies are in place and encourage fair outcomes for all employees involved.