A harassment investigation usually begins with a complaint being filed. After this is done, several steps are usually taken to ensure the victim and accused are kept separated. Interviews will be conducted with the victim, the accused, and any witnesses who are involved in the situation. When all of the evidence has been gathered, the investigator will present the information so a decision can be made as to whether harassment has occurred, and if it has, what punishment the accused must be given.
When a complaint is made regarding harassment, whether it is made to a person's boss, the police, or anyone else, that complaint will need to be documented, and the harassment investigation will usually start immediately. Promptness is often important because the statements that people make can often change over time, and they may forget what they witnessed. If the harassment complaint is made in the workplace, separate files are often used to keep statements and evidence that is uncovered, rather than them being kept in the employees personnel files. This gives those involved more privacy by limiting the number of people who are able to access the files.
Interviews must be done with each person involved in the situation. If it is possible, the statements of each person should be written down. Most of the time, it is recommended that the victim is the first to be interviewed. Doing this will allow the investigator to be aware of the exact nature of the harassment and the name of the person whom the victim feels is doing the harassing.
After the interview part of the harassment investigation, all of the evidence must be reviewed. The investigator may review the information with a lawyer, the police, or the employer, depending on the nature of the investigation. It will then be decided whether or not harassment actually occurred.
If in the course of the harassment investigation it is determined that the accused is guilty of harassment, he will be subject to disciplinary action. The exact punishment will vary, depending on the nature and extent of the harassment. As punishment in the workplace, the accused may be suspended, transferred, or given a written or oral warning, and he may have to issue a formal apology or enroll in counseling. Serious situations may result in loss of employment. Harassment inside or outside of the workplace also can result in criminal charges.
After the harassment investigation has concluded, the investigator usually tells the complaining party what has occurred. This is most often done in writing, and the victim can expect to be informed of the results of the investigation. The investigator also may follow up with the victim after the investigation has been completed to make sure no other problems have occurred.