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Five Mistakes Your Nonprofit Doesn’t Want to Make When Investigating Sexual Harassment Allegations

In a former professional role, I served as legal counsel to employers in employment discrimination cases, including sexual harassment matters. While representing employers I learned about many instances of sexual harassment that were not handled well by the employer. Many of the underlying harassment claims were so mishandled that the victims became even more outraged and angry, not only at the harasser but also at their employer. This was particularly likely if their employers were slow to respond to allegations of harassment, allowing it to continue, or if the employer sidelined the victim while trying to “protect” him or her, which had the result of isolating the victim, cutting the victim off from professional development opportunities. Once a smart plaintiff’s lawyer learned of this “response” to their client’s harassment complaint, the lawyer would add an additional count to the complaint: retaliation. In fact, there are far more complaints about retaliation filed and resolved each year than there are cases of employment discrimination alone. Retaliation for filing a complaint of sexual harassment, whether in the form of something obvious, such as termination of employment, or in the form of something more subtle, such as moving the victim to an isolated office on the other side of the building, is the most common mistake employers make in connection with their response to a complaint of sexual harassment.

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