October 2014 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

Play Nice!

You have two management level employees that are constantly bickering. They would each like to see the other terminated. 

You heard a rumor that these two managers went to blows about a scheduling issue. Their screaming match was witnessed by other employees and customers. You plan to bring them both into your office and discuss their behavior. Likely, both managers will be disciplined for their respective unprofessional behavior.

Before you get a chance to talk to them, one of the managers (a woman) comes to your office complaining that two former employees abruptly quit because the other manager (a male) had created a hostile working environment. In particular, she claims that he sexually harassed these employees; allegedly, he propositioned one of the former employees (who was only 15 years old) in exchange for a raise.

What should you do?

A.  Do nothing about the sexual harassment complaint since the complaint is hearsay about former employees, and continue with the planned meeting regarding the managers’ unprofessional behavior.

B.  Do nothing about the sexual harassment complaint since the complaining manager is not credible, and discipline them both for their unprofessional behavior.

C.  Investigate the sexual harassment, and continue with the planned meeting with both managers about their behavior. Regardless of the outcome of the meeting with the managers, you cannot discipline the female manager because she brought a sexual harassment complaint to your attention.

D.  Investigate the sexual harassment complaint, and address the unprofessional behavior of both managers. Upon completion of the meeting with the managers, take whatever disciplinary action is appropriate.

Answer:  D     You should take every complaint of sexual harassment seriously, and investigate. Do your best to interview every witness, including the former employees. You should not reject the complaint, out of hand, because you predetermine the complainant is not credible. Once the investigation is completed, take any necessary and appropriate remedial action.

You should also meet with the managers and discuss their unprofessional behavior. If they do not admit screaming at each other in front of other employees and customers, further investigate this incident. If the verbal altercation is confirmed, you should discipline both individuals involved.

However, be aware that the female manager may contend that she was retaliated against because she participated in a sexual harassment investigation. The U.S. Supreme Court held that witnesses in sexual harassment investigations are protected from retaliation. While retaliation may be a viable claim, the circumstances would not seem to support her possible retaliation claim provided the unprofessional behavior relates to something other than sexual harassment, and is clearly documented by several witnesses including unbiased customers.

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