7

Disclosure - sexual harassment

Situation: A small charity shop with 4 trustees one of which is the chairman (male).  One part time shop manager (10-year service) and one part time member of staff (4 years service) both female.

 

Employee A (4 years’ service - 10 hours per week) was off sick with depression in Jan and Feb this year, on return to work a meeting was held with the chairman and a trustee.  Employee A was asked to temporarily vary her hours to support her back to work and eliminate lone working, to which she verbally agreed.  Shortly after employee A submitted a written grievance for disability discrimination.  No action was taken.

 

I was contacted by the charity the week before lockdown.  I met the manager, employee and chairman individually to introduce myself, at which stage employee A indicated she had a more serious complaint but did not disclose it.

 

Employee A went on annual leave and then lockdown ensued, and the shop remains closed.

 

Employee A has a mobile from which she will only text, and does not have internet or a computer, she lives with her mother and has limited access to a phone, so contact is difficult.  Over the bank holiday weekend employee A has sent a variety of accusatory text messages to my mobile (some at 3 and 4am) in relation to the chairman claiming that he is a sexual predator and he has been harassing her. 

 

I was able to speak to employee A on Tuesday.  She made general claims of sexual harassment and stated the only reason she stayed was because she loves her job but now 'the cats out of the bag' she doesn’t feel she can come back to work.  She declared that she has been having counselling and has records of her allegation, she also claims that volunteers and customers are witnesses.  As she believes she can't return to work and she doesn’t think she would be able to stand taking legal action she has said 'just make me an offer' and I will leave.

 

The charity may agree to a settlement as the current manager (who is the bedrock of the charity) is not coping well employee A.

 

Bearing in mind the confidentiality aspect, I have not, at this stage shared the allegation with either the shop manager or the chairman, should I?  If I do the chairman will fiercely deny the allegations, I am sure, and may want to take legal action against employee A.  I am not sure how I will help them to resolve the issue from this point on.

 

Morally, if employee A's allegations are accurate surely this matter should be taken further due to the potential risk to others.

 

I would really appreciate any advice on this matter.

 

Thank you.

936 views
  • If it were me I would carry out as complete and thorough an investigation as I could under the circumstances. Then depending on that investigation would guide the next steps.

    I believe you have an obligation as a third party external person not to keep this to yourself as you have so far but to notify the Trustees (ex-the Chairman probably) of these allegations and agree with them a course of action.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thank you Keith, appreciate your comments.
  • In reply to Helen Jane:

    This might help "set the scene": www.cipd.co.uk/.../please-don-t-say-anything

    Your problem here is two-fold: First it is possible that the employee is telling the "tale" simply to get a settlement (although from what you say that does not seem likely); the second (far more significant) is that if settled without further action then you may be leaving a sexual predator in place to do it again

    That in itself would be bad enough, but imagine the scenario if the next victim should hear of there being a previous case? (which could easily happen in several ways) the Charity, and everyone involved with the "cover-up" would be subject to not only public condemnation, but very possibly both criminal legal actions (not least from the HSE for operating an "unsafe" workplace) and civil actions for negligence etc.

    IMO, if your own investigation suggests any truth to these claims at all, this has to be put before the trustees for their consideration and investigation, even if the employee does not wish it to be, or declines to repeat her allegations formally.

  • In reply to Peter:

    Thank you Peter, appreciate your comments.
  • In reply to Peter:

    Peter,
    Thank you for the link to the excellent article which brought clarity and has helped immensely.
    Kind regards
    Helen
  • In reply to Helen Jane:

    You may also wish to reference the Charity Commission serious incident guidance as there may be an obligation to report there.
  • In reply to Joanne Garnham:

    Thank you, I will look into it. Much appreciated.