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Minimizing retaliation in harassment investigations

Alberta businesses who have employees must prepare to deal with personalities that do not get along. Claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment could crop up at any time and business owners need to make sure that they have appropriate policies and procedures to deal with them. It is not enough to have protocols for discrimination or harassment investigations, but also to handle retaliation against complainants or witnesses by those that are accused of harassment or others that are sympathetic to the accused.

Everyone within the organization needs to understand the company's policy against retaliation for making complaints or participating in investigations. Training sessions should be held periodically to ensure every employee knows the company's expectations and the repercussions of violating those policies.

When an incident arises, the person accused of harassment will ultimately be notified of the complaint and the investigation. The timing of the notification needs to be carefully contemplated in order to help ensure that the complainant does not suffer any retaliation, especially if the accused person supervises or manages the other employee. It is also crucial for the employer to let the accused employee know that any retaliation against a complainant or witness will not be tolerated and that the investigation should be kept confidential. Confidentiality of the complaint is important to ensure other employees do not retaliate on behalf of the accused employee. It must be clear to the accused employee that breaching any of these requirements could result in a separate investigation.

Knowing how to identify issues, carry out an investigation and dealing with involved parties helps to resolve complaints in accordance with legislation. An experienced lawyer can carry out investigations, advise and guide Alberta companies through these and other difficult situations.

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