We have a member of staff in the office who is very flirtatious with some of the female employees and I have recently received a complaint. What action should I take?
This is a common problem. Our joint research on awkward employees carried out with Personnel Today revealed that one-third of HR professionals had experienced an office ‘Romeo’.
Flirting in the office can be interpreted by the recipient as sexual harassment.
The definition introduced in the Employment Equality Regulations 2005 (Sex Discrimination) is very wide. It includes not just unwelcome sexual advances but also continued suggestions that someone should go on a date if it is known such suggestions are unwelcome.
The first step is to hold a meeting with the employee who has raised the issue. Do not delay this. A failure to deal with a grievance in a reasonable time may give grounds for a constructive dismissal claim. It may also be treated as a failure to comply with the statutory grievance procedure and lead to additional damages should any discrimination claim be successful.
At the meeting, take full details of the incident and note any potential witnesses. Assure the employee you will carry out a thorough investigation. Take into account any wishes she may express in relation to how you deal with the matter. However, you must use your own judgement to ensure that the investigation is processed fairly and, if disciplinary measures are required, what penalty would be appropriate.
You will need to interview the flirtatious employee, as well as any witnesses, then make a decision as to whether to invoke the company’s disciplinary procedure.
By Guy Guinan, employment partner, Halliwells