Sexual Harassment Investigation
We were impressed by the structured approach taken to the investigation and presentation of evidence. Use of the psychological definition (of harassment) requiring that there was both event and arousal of sensibilities provided a much more robust criteria for use in our assessment than the legal criterion alone.
The Client and Their Requirements
Sexual harassment is serious. Our client, a leading charity, had learned of a possibility that one of its senior male staff had harassed several women over the past two years. The accusations had to be investigated.
In any such situation, management is bound to suspend the alleged perpetrator, pending investigation and the unearthing of evidence. Ultimately management must make decisions on the basis of reasonable belief – reasonable belief that the events reported occurred and that they did or did not amount to harassment.
TimelessTime was asked to complete an impartial investigation and present evidence to the CEO and ultimately the Board.
As TimelessTime’s Sue Berry commented, “The legal definition of harassment concerns unwanted conduct, violating another person’s dignity. So evidence was needed to support or refute the presence of such unwanted behaviour.”
During the investigation, TimelessTime interviewed many staff, both past and present and collated many confidential witness statements. With so much data, it was essential to complete a thematic analysis to evolve the main themes in the information. Without thematic analysis, the data would simply be a catalogue of claims.
Thematic analysis is a common research methodology used in teasing meaning from qualitative data such as interviews.
As Sue continued, “The legal definition of harassment is too clinical. With the legal definition, we worried that an unfair decision could result. The psychological definition, on the other hand, required that there was both event and arousal of sensibilities and this twin definition provided a much more robust criterion.”
In this investigation, TimelessTime collected evidence and presented this to the CEO and the Board. The CEO and the Board could then make an appropriate decision – had harassment taken place and were the victims’ sensibilities aroused?
On presentation of TimelessTime’s report, the CEO and the Board considered the evidence and the guidance on how to evaluate it and made appropriate decisions.
In addition, TimelessTime recommended that all staff receive training in harassment and how to avoid it in the workplace. It also recommended that policies be updated.