Restoring A Workplace After A Harassment Complaint

 A corporate client reviewing the results of a workplace harassment investigation in an attorney’s office.


Workplace harassment can have a negative impact on individual employees and the entire company. Once a claim has been made, a business is responsible for taking appropriate steps to investigate and restore the workplace to a healthy environment. 

Find out how to restore a workplace after a harassment complaint and learn why it is imperative to address these issues to reduce your legal liability. If you would like to understand more about restoring your workplace, contact an employer defense attorney with Schwab & Gasparini by calling (315) 422-1333 (Syracuse), Albany Office (518) 591-4664 (Albany), White Plains Office (914) 304-4353 (White Plains) or (914) 304-4353 (Hudson Valley) to schedule an appointment. 


What Is Restoration in the Workplace?

According to, workplace harassment is conduct that meets three criteria:

  • The conduct happens in the complainant's workplace. 
  • The conduct is unwelcome.
  • The conduct is based on a protected category.

Instances of harassment are obviously disruptive to collegiality and cooperation in any workplace; less obviously, however, the investigation that follows a harassment complaint can itself leave employees and coworkers feeling unsettled. A strategic restoration helps businesses start to repair some of the damage. 


The Elements of Workplace Restoration

Workplace restoration can make the environment a more supportive, inclusive, and safe place for all concerned. The process involves:

  • Responding to specific issues in the complaint
  • Taking the proper steps for adjustment
  • Ensuring that all employees feel valued


First Steps Toward Workplace Restoration

The first step toward restoration is actually investigating the complaint. While completing the investigation and applying appropriate remedies may take some time, simply taking allegations seriously and following thoughtful investigation procedures allows the repair process to start. 

Generally, companies will also allow their employees to express their feelings about the current environment and may invite their opinions on how to make a safer space. 


How Do You Conduct a Harassment Investigation?

There are several vital steps that companies will want to take to conduct a harassment investigation. These steps can ensure fairness in the proceedings and help to resolve the situation. Generally, some of the ways to end an inquiry include:

Gather All the Evidence

With any complaint, companies will want to review all the information, interview witnesses, and collect evidence critical to the harassment complaint. This evidence collection can be conducted by a designated company member or, in some cases, may be assigned to a third party with relevant expertise, such as a labor and employment attorney. 

In either instance, it is essential to ensure that the investigator is someone with no connection to either the accused or the complainant, who can demonstrate impartiality throughout the process.

Analyze the Evidence

After collecting all the evidence, the impartial investigator will evaluate the information collected to determine its credibility and relevance to the complaint. Business owners and employees can quickly become impatient at this stage, but it is crucial to conduct a thorough analysis to ensure an accurate and equitable outcome.

Make a Decision

Based on the findings of the case, companies will need to make a fair and objective decision regarding the validity of the complaint. The investigator may make a recommendation regarding possible steps to take. Still, in general, a separate individual will have responsibility for determining the company's course of action pursuant to the investigator's findings. 

Take Necessary Actions

Companies will want to take disciplinary measures, policy changes, or support mechanisms identified during the investigation. If the entire process has been conducted with transparency and impartiality up to this point, implementing the appropriate punishments, training programs, or team modifications can restore the workplace by demonstrating the company's commitment to supporting all employees and treating them fairly. 

Follow-Up and Monitoring

Finally, companies will need to regularly check in with the affected parties to ensure the effectiveness of the implemented measures and provide ongoing support as required. To learn more about employer defense options in New York, contact the experienced labor and employment attorneys at Schwab & Gasparini.


Outcomes of Workplace Investigations

The first goal of any harassment investigation is to learn whether a claim is valid. If the allegations reference multiple instances of harassment, investigations may also expand their scope to discover the extent of the unwanted behavior. Only once relevant evidence has been collected can company leadership determine appropriate outcomes. Some possible results include:

Consequences for the Harasser

If the allegations are valid, the investigation may lead to disciplinary action for the harassment. Common examples include warnings, suspensions, or job termination, depending on the severity and frequency of the investigated behavior. Assigning appropriate consequences clearly conveys that harassment will not be tolerated in the organization.

Policy Changes

Harassment investigations may also lead to changes in company procedures to prevent future incidents. Typically, such changes involve increasing training and updating protocols, emphasizing enhancing the current workplace culture to create an environment less conducive to the unwanted behavior that prompted the initial complaint. 


Additionally, those impacted by the harassment are often provided with some options for seeking assistance and support due to the findings of these investigations. The types of support offered depend to some extent on the nature of the allegations, but common examples include access to dispute resolution techniques, including mediation and employee aid programs. 


Why Companies Should Take Any Allegation Seriously

Companies should not overlook any claims of harassment for a variety of reasons. Some of the most prominent include:

Maintaining Full Compliance

Every company has a duty to give employees a welcoming and secure environment. In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws all forms of workplace harassment. Failure to resolve these issues can lead to penalties, legal action, and reputational harm for the company.


If a company's leadership is aware of potentially harassing behavior on the part of an employee but does not take appropriate action to address the situation, the business may be held legally liable. Along with the harasser, the managers and supervisors who were aware of the problems but failed to take steps to correct them could face significant consequences. Victims of the harassment could potentially seek compensation from the offending company.

Damage to Reputation

Incidents of workplace harassment can easily become public knowledge through news outlets, social media, and simple word of mouth. When an accusation is ignored or mishandled by business leadership, the appearance of a cavalier attitude and disregard for relevant employment laws can damage the company's reputation. That damage can lead to a break of confidence from investors, customers, and potential employees, resulting in operational and financial consequences for the business.

Reduction in Employee Morale and Productivity

Instances of harassment can impact employee productivity and morale, especially when the company is seen not to take action to resolve the problems. Employees who lack confidence in the company's readiness to handle harassment complaints seriously may try to protect themselves by avoiding interactions with coworkers who have previously subjected them to unwelcome conduct. In some situations, this avoidance can lead to workflow bottlenecks and productivity slowdowns, negatively impacting the company's finances.

Increased Reports of Retaliation Claims

A company failing to address harassment complaints could face additional legal liabilities. Sometimes, employees may also claim that the company has retaliated against them for making these allegations. Employees who raise concerns are protected under the law. A company that engages in retaliation can experience further damage to its finances and reputation. Given these factors, companies must take workplace harassment allegations seriously and respond promptly and appropriately.


Are Workplace Harassment Complaints Kept Confidential?

Ensuring reasonable confidentiality is essential to handling workplace harassment complaints effectively. An employee who makes a complaint must be assured that the case details will always be kept confidential, protecting them from retaliation by either the accused or other members of the company. However, balancing confidentiality with a proper investigation in these cases is also necessary.

All employers should have established policies and procedures for handling any harassment claim. These protocols often include guidelines for limiting any dissemination of information to protect those involved in the investigation. Additionally, the company may want to safeguard all evidence and documents collected during the investigation to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing sensitive data. Unfortunately, complete confidentiality is not always possible, especially when a company is legally bound to disclose information to its employees.


Talk to a New York Employer Defense Attorney Today

Restoring a workplace after a harassment complaint can be challenging, and an effective restoration requires a multifaceted approach. By effectively addressing the underlying issues, employers can foster a workplace environment where all employees feel secure, appreciated, and confident in their abilities. To learn more about what to do after a harassment complaint, consider contacting a New York employer defense attorney with Schwab & Gasparini by calling (315) 422-1333 (Syracuse), Albany Office (518) 591-4664 (Albany), White Plains Office (914) 304-4353 (White Plains) or (914) 304-4353 (Hudson Valley) to schedule a consultation.


Mon Aug 28 2023, 12:00am