Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 3: Interviewing the Accused and Other Witnesses
February 6, 2018
Authored by: Mimi Moore
You have received a complaint of harassment and interviewed the complainant. In this third part of a six-part series, we discuss interviewing the accused and other witnesses. As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.
Interviewing the Accused
At the beginning of the meeting, the investigator should:
- Explain that a complaint of sexual (racial, etc.) harassment has been brought against the accused; that the Company is conducting a prompt and thorough investigation to determine if inappropriate conduct has occurred; and that no conclusion has yet been reached.
- Identify your role as investigator.
- Tell the accused that the Company prohibits retaliation against a complainant, and anyone the accused suspects may have participated in any way in the investigation.
- Explain that the accused must provide a truthful account of what occurred, and identify all evidence and witnesses who may have relevant knowledge.
- Explain that efforts will be made to share information on a need-to-know basis only, but do not promise confidentiality.
- Explain the expected investigation procedure and the expected time frame involved.
During the Interview, the investigator should:
- Explain the details of the allegations against him/her (the investigator need not disclose the source of the information, but usually should disclose the allegations in enough detail so that the accused can respond). Ask about the alleged conduct/comments first, before identifying the complainant.
- Obtain the accused’s account of what occurred, as specifically as possible. (Depending on the circumstances, it