Employers, has this ever happened to you?
An employee has accused her boss of sexual harassment. Right now, it’s her word against his, but you might be able to find out the truth if you interview her co-workers.
The only trouble with that is, you don’t want to do anything to undermine the supervisor before you even know whether he’s guilty. So, maybe you do a superficial investigation that doesn’t require you to dig into the dirt, or maybe you don’t do any investigation at all.
If you ever needed a case study showing why it’s important to do a thorough investigation anyway (and I’ll talk about how to do it in a way that shouldn’t cause any harm to an innocent supervisor), then read this decision, from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. (Warning: NSFW, unless you’re an employment lawyer who has seen and heard it all, anyway.)
The Court reinstated a punitive damages award of $500,000 against a Lexus dealership, in part because of its lousy investigation.
The plaintiff was in her termination meeting and made allegations of sexual harassment by her boss. The dealership went ahead with the termination and then investigated.
But just barely, because they didn’t want to “undermine” the accused.