Investigating Sexual Harassment
The context, nature scope, frequency, duration of behavior as well as the identity, number and relationships of persons involved must be examined to determine whether alleged conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent to constitute sexual harassment. The behavior must, in most cases consist of more than casual or isolated incidents to establish a violation. Generally, the severity of the incidents needed to establish a sexually hostile environment varies inversely with their pervasiveness or persistence. That is, one serious incident may be sufficient to create a hostile environment. Sex-related conduct by a person in authority may have a greater impact than the same conduct by another student or a coworker. The effect of conduct may be greater if perpetrated by a group of persons rather than by an individual.
The investigation should answer two questions: What was the behavior? What was the impact of the behavior? To answer these questions, the investigation should be structured to examine:
Context of the Alleged Behavior and the Identify and Relationship of Persons Involved.
- What was going on when the alleged incident occurred?
- What is the relationship of the alleged victim to the alleged perpetrator?
- When, where and in whose presence did the alleged behavior take place?
- Did the alleged perpetrator invite others to join in or attempt to incite others to join?
- Were there any witnesses?
- How many persons engaged in the alleged conduct?
- Was any person in authority present? What actions did the person take, if any?
Nature and Scope of the Alleged Behavior
- Was the alleged behavior only oral, written, graphic or physical?
- Did the alleged behavior remain the same?
- Did the behavior change over time? How did the behavior change over time?
- What types of alleged behavior--oral, written, graphic, physical--were involved?
Frequency of the Alleged Behavior?
- How often did the alleged behavior(s) occur?
- Has the frequency increased, decreased or remained the same over time?
Severity of the Alleged Behavior
- How serious [harsh] was the alleged behavior/ Was it verbal, physical or both?
- Was the victim or complainant, injured, threatened?
- Were any weapons involved? Were common items used as weapons?
- Were any threats communicated?
Pervasiveness or Persistence of the Alleged Behavior
- Was the alleged behavior common place?
- Has it continued despite objections of the complainant or another person?
Impact of the Confirmed Behavior
- What affect, if any, did the behavior have on the work or learning environment?
- What evidence is there to support adverse affect? Is it credible?
- Interview the complainant.
- Decide whether further review is warranted
- If further review is warranted, develop an preliminary investigative plan, and allow the respondent an opportunity to respond and rebut the allegations.
- Interview any witnesses.
- Ask the complainant to respond to the rebuttal.
- Evaluate the evidence.
- Reach a conclusion.
- Write the report.