The Pastor’s StudyPosted on December 10th, 2012.
QUESTION: One of our ministry employees was recently advised that one of the employees under his authority and care was being sexually harassed. We don’t know what to do! Where should we start?
ANSWER: If the initial complaint comes from a witness or victim, a religious organization should assure the witness that no retaliation against them will occur and then proceed to gather facts from the witness. Please be sure not to formally investigate the matter at this stage, and it is probably advisable to have a same-sex witness present. Please also take a statement from the alleged perpetrator. Remedial measures should be implemented to stop the harassment, correct its effects on the employee, and ensure that the harassment does not reoccur. These remedial measures need not be those that the complainant employee requests or prefers, as long as they are effective. In determining disciplinary measures, management should keep in mind that the employer could be found liable if the harassment does not stop; at the same time, management should also keep in mind that overly punitive measures may possibly subject the employer to claims such as wrongful discharge. To balance the competing concerns, disciplinary measures should be proportional to the seriousness of the alleged offense. If the harassment was minor, counseling and a verbal warning might be all that is necessary. Conversely, if the harassment was severe or persistent, then suspension or discharge may be appropriate. It is advisable to seek the assistance of legal counsel in weighing these sometimes competing concerns and interests.