Dealing with discrimination and harassment in the workplace can be a complicated, delicate process, but one that must be resolved for the well being of all your employees.

When situations of this nature arise, the fallout can be damaging. Tension in the workplace is often the first to increase, but more severe cases can lead to legal battles, and even government investigations. Take these complaints very seriously, and investigate the claim as much as you can before making any decisions or rulings. In order to manage discrimination or harassment claims best, abide by the following rules.

Read the Employee Handbook

Most businesses have procedures already set in place to deal with harassment or discrimination in the office. It is almost never advisable to bend the rules in any way, lest you put yourself in a position to be accused of poor management. Treat these established policies as essential guides to dealing with these situations. Going against them in any way could prove disastrous under certain circumstances.

Be Open-Minded

2017 is a much different time than the 1950’s. Workplace harassment, which was frequent and rarely taken seriously in the early 20th century, may seem uncommon in today’s business world. However, to be so naive is to open up your office to these exact incidents. Failing to look into these complaints simply because you don’t believe occurrences like this can happen today would be foolish. Even if you suspect that a particular complaint is more of an overreaction, investigate it. Denying an investigation regardless of severity can lead to a considerable amount of legal trouble.

Approach the Situation With Care

For an employee to voice their concern to you, whether they are the victim of harassment or discrimination, or one who is concerned for another, they are taking an enormous step forward. It can be incredibly difficult talking about topics this controversial, so treat anyone who comes forward about them with compassion, especially if they are the victim.

Be understanding as well. This is often a very troubling event, so one’s state of mind may not be entirely clear following. Taking these claims seriously shows that you care about remedying the situation, which also effectively avoids legal trouble in most cases.

Take Action

The most important phase in dealing with discrimination or harassment claims is taking appropriate action against those that committed the act. Discipline them depending on the severity of their actions, which may warrant termination. Harassment and discrimination can come in many forms, whether it is sexual, physical or verbal abuse, or belittling an individual because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Behavior like this should never be tolerated in the workplace. Document the punishment you followed through with, and take the appropriate steps in educating your employees about these situations in order to best prevent them from happening again in the future.