On April 2, 2019 Transform Minnesota presented a ministry equip training for churches and Christian nonprofits called “Fostering Dignity in the Workplace” with Virginia Cronin, attorney at Henningson and Snoxell. When designing the policies and procedures a church or nonprofit will use to conduct intake reports of sexual harassment, this 8-point checklist is a good place to start.
- Designate the appropriate personnel to conduct the intake.
- Confidentiality and clarity of role is very important.
- Preferably Human Resources, or if no Human Resources personnel, train and designate a few managers or supervisors for this role
- Immediately plan to interview the reporting employee.
“Anytime the organization becomes aware of allegations of conduct that is or could be perceived as sexual harassment, an investigation should be initiated,” said Virginia Cronin.
Promptly interview the reporting employee to:
- Confirm the nature of the alleged conduct and the identity of any potential witnesses
- Make the reporting employee aware that the complaint has been taken seriously
- Document the reporting employee’s accusations in writing and have the employee confirm the completeness and accuracy of the accusations at the end of the interview to avoid later changes to the employee’s account of events.
- Planning for the Investigation
- Define the scope of investigation
- Decide the order of witness interviews
- Determine what documents to gather
- Decide where to conduct interviews
- Determine who should be privy to investigation
- Conduct the interview in an appropriate manner:
- In a private location
- Obtain FACTS
- Interviewer should be impartial and nonjudgmental; do not express opinions or feelings regarding the facts presented by the reporter
- Reaffirm Employer Polices on Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
- Inform reporter who will be following up with her/him
- Utilize the proper person to conduct the investigation.
“The Investigator must be unbiased, discreet and committed to upholding the privacy rights of all parties, as well as knowledgeable about state and federal employment laws,” said Ginny Cronin.
Investigator options include:
- Human resources or employee relations personnel.
- In-house attorney
- Outside attorney
- Individuals within the organization with relevant responsibilities
- An outside investigator
“Using an attorney investigator allows the employer to apply the attorney-client privilege to the investigation in many situations. The outside attorney as investigator may disqualify that attorney from representing the employer in ensuing related litigation if a court deems the investigator a fact witness,” said Cronin.
- Interview the subject of the complaint, keeping in mind to:
- Explain the accusations
- Allow the subject to respond to the accusations
- Follow up on any exculpatory evidence or witnesses identified by the accused.
- If necessary, conduct follow up interviews with the accused
- Communicate the results of the investigation.
- Summarize what the investigator did
- Summarize what the investigator found
- Summarize next steps
- Determine which actions should be taken in response to the results of the investigation:
- No disciplinary action
- Audits of past investigations
- Support for reporter and victim
What attendees are saying:
Our organization needs to verify if we are posting the right information, and that our process to report is clear to staff/volunteers. I also learned we should look into having legal counsel available to us on retainer,” said Dan, a church board member.
I realized how important it is to keep an eye on workplace “culture,” said Mary, an Operations Manager at Christian organization.
Thanks for the great training! Overall it catalyzed a lot of thoughts and questions for myself and for the people I work with,” said a participant.