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Examples of questions asked during a company sexual harassment or discrimination investigation

Once an employer is put on notice of a sexual harassment or discrimination claim, it has a legal duty to conduct a prompt investigation and, if necessary, to take corrective action. The employer should conduct an investigation even if the employee changes his or her mind about coming forward. The employer can’t “un-hear” the report of illegal conduct.

The employer should begin an interview by thanking the interviewee for his or her participation and cooperation. The employer should assure the employee who has come forward that the company has a commitment/obligation to investigate the claim. Let them know that no conclusion will be made until the company has collected and analyzed all of the facts.

When questioning someone, the employer should be mindful that this can be a sensitive and emotionally charged conversation. It is important to be tactful and not pre-judge the facts.  Open-ended, non-leading questions are appropriate techniques.

  • Where and when did the action take place? Is it ongoing?
  • How did you react?
  • Did you ever indicate that you were offended or somehow displeased by the act or offensive treatment?  What was the reaction you received to your response?
  • Who else may have seen or heard the incident?
  • Have you discussed the incident with anyone else? Ask for details of dates and the content of the discussions.
  • Do you know of others who may have been affected by the actions?
  • Do you know whether anyone else reported the incident?  Ask the interviewee for their names and their understanding of what others reported or observed.
  • How have you and your job been affected by the incident?
  • Are there any notes, texts, emails, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Is there anyone else who may have relevant information?
  • What action would you  like to see the company take?

Remind all interview subjects that the company will consider disciplinary action against anyone who retaliates against another employee, or gives false information in the investigation, or is not honest and forthcoming. Once your investigation is complete, come up with an action plan. At the very least, the employer should consider conducting a review of its sexual harassment policy within that department.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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