Sexual Harassment: Organizational Integrity and Perception

Chuck Hurst Compliance, Corporate Compliance, Ethics, News


sexual harassment investigationDuring the course of one’s life, it is said that your reputation precedes you in every facet of your life. It goes in the door before you ever set foot in a courtroom, boardroom, operating room, classroom, or boiler room. It doesn’t matter if you are white collar or blue collar; a person’s reputation matters.

Does the same hold true for the reputation of a business, company, corporation, firm, practice, or organization? The answer would be an emphatic “Yes”, perhaps more so than the reputation of an individual. From a multi-billion dollar corporation to a mom-and-pop restaurant, you better believe it matters. It can determine the success or failure of a business. And in today’s instant information age the thirst for immediate results can bring about lightening quick reversal of fortune. Right or wrong, perception can wreak havoc with brand identity and brand reputation.

So, where does sexual harassment fit into this picture? Well, to say documented cases of sexual harassment are all over the news would be an understatement. The list of noted and celebrity individuals accused of misdeeds seems to increase almost daily. The conclusion one can draw from that is that sexual harassment permeates every layer of our society, including the rich, famous and powerful.

But what about the everyday people that toil away in relative obscurity while being subjected to the same type of harassment? In a way they represent the unseen face of sexual harassment in America. There is no high-powered lawyer by their side or cameras in front of their face. Instead they go quietly about their jobs, often not even disclosing the mistreatment. Or if they do, it seems to quietly go away. Brand identity? Protected. Brand reputation? Protected. Mistreated employee? Unprotected. By the way, that mistreated employee is now a victim twice over.

When it comes to sexual harassment it is incumbent upon all organizations, entities, businesses, institutions, and agencies to avoid the “fox guarding the henhouse” scenario. HR may be understaffed or ill-equipped to deal with conducting employee investigations. Or there may be personal relationships and associations that hamper or influence the course of the investigation. In some cases there may be outright willful intent to discredit the accuser in the misguided interest of protecting the organization.

Even more problematic is a business that has no clearly defined HR component. It may be a single owner/ proprietor who makes all the hiring decisions or a family-owned business operating under the premise of “what goes on here remains in the family.” It happens. Every day. Even the most well-intended and principled investigations can wind up not passing the smell test. When that happens, perception can skew the results and skewer the brand reputation of the organization.

So, what is the “best practice” method to achieve objectivity with investigations of this nature? There is no perfect answer. However, outsourcing to a reputable, trustworthy and proven investigative firm is one place to start. All parties to the matter are entitled to a fair, objective, impartial, thorough investigation conducted in a timely manner without regard to the outcome. The facts will speak for themselves, and an independent third-party investigative resource can serve as the collector of facts during the process. Informed decisions are then made based upon the tenets of morals, ethics and the rule of law.


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Protus3 specializes in security system design, security consulting, corporate investigations and other investigative services. Partner with Protus3 and we will examine each situation to identify threats and develop solutions for your best outcome.

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