The Supervisor’s Role in Investigating Sexual Harassment2013-08-28T16:44:51-04:00

By Heidi Boyer
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News - Winter 2000

As far back as 1964, the government has enacted laws that have addressed sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which considers sexual harassment a form of sexual discrimination. A security supervisor is liable for sexual harassment regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of its occurrence (Facts, 1). When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission looks at the whole record, the circumstances, and the context in which the alleged in incident occurred (1). Conducting an in-depth sexual harassment investigation take time, but the time spent is well worth it.

Once a complaint is made, a thorough investigation should be followed according to company policy (Gibson, 50). According to Working Woman, a good sexual harassment policy for corporations should "convey, consistent messages":

Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated - its presence is damaging to all employees and to the organization climate; Complaints will be protected from reprisal; employees are encouraged to come forward confidentially to discuss situations which make them uncomfortable and to learn about the options; Those found guilty of harassment will be disciplined consistently with others who have violated workplace policies and without regard to their position or job performance (Webb, 44).

The first step is to have a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and become familiar with the definition and examples of the behavior (Gibson, 50). Harassment is defined by the Equal Opportunity Commission as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature" when it involves getting or keeping a job, a promotion, pay increase, or when it substantially interferes with an employee's ability to do his or her work (Nelton, 5).

A security supervisor has general investigation guidelines.


  • Treat each incident separate from another. Do not reflect or discuss anything that has happened in a previous incident.
  • Develop a complete and accurate written record of the investigation. Include all information collected from the accuser and the complainant.
  • Keep the investigation and facts it uncovers on a strictly confidential basis. Do not reveal any information to the party involved.
  • Limit the amount of people who have access to the information. Allow only those investigating to view information.
  • Make the accused and accuser aware in interviewing that this is not to be discussed with other parties. The discussion is to remain confidential.
  • Be certain that the information and facts never get broadcast to the personnel and staff within the corporation.

In interviewing the complainant:


  • Reassure them that no negative employment action will be taken.
  • Make him or her aware of the liability of giving false statements.
  • Reassure the victim and obtain a signed written statement of what occurred, if not already done.
  • Get the specifics of the incident, determine the effect.
  • Find out if there are witnesses.
  • Explain to the complainant that the charges are serious.
  • Remember no statements about the accused to the complainant.

When interviewing the accused:


  • Talk in private. Tell the reason for the investigation. Make the accused aware of the allegations that were filed. Remind the accused that an investigation will be administered and he or she will be notified of results.
  • Give the accused enough of the allegations so he or she can respond to the complaint. Seek admissions or explanations concerning the allegation.
  • If possible, obtain a written, signed statement.
  • As a supervisor one can expect him or her to deny the charges. Deal with the accuser the best way possible, do not accuse him or her of anything.
  • Observe the reaction. Make sure that a violent act will not initiate from the allegations. Make the accuser aware that retaliation will not be tolerated.

Lastly, a supervisor's follow-up required, ensuring the remedy has been effective to stop harassment. Failure to follow up can result in liability. Increase the level of discipline if the procedure did not work. If sexual harassment is dealt with properly, employees will be deterred from repeating behavior thus reducing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Works Cited

Carlin, Jim. "Sex Discrimination" ASIS Sept. 1991

Gibson, Paul. Sexual Harassment Management for Managers and Supervisors. Chicago, 1995

Jayne, Brian C. "Interviewing Strategies That Defeat Deceit." Security Management, Feb. 1994: 37-42

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Facts about Sexual Harassment. 28 April 1999.

Webb, Susan. Step Forward: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace What you need to Know. New York: 1992.