The Role of a Private Investigator in a Sexual Harassment Case

Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem in the United States; of 90,000 charges received by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), one-third related to sexual harassment in the workplace. These complaints range from inappropriate comments to full-blown sexual assault. There may even be more cases than those reported, as for many people, the fear of retaliation leads to them not reporting the harassment. This can be detrimental to the victim's mental health and can also stall their career progression. However, when harassment is reported, the claims must be investigated thoroughly. A private investigator in Knoxville can play a crucial role in this type of investigation.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

First, let us summarize what sexual harassment covers. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't have to be a physical situation. It can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual contact, unwanted physical contact, and comments of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment usually falls into two different categories:

  • Quid Pro Quo (exchange of sexual favors for workplace benefits such as a promotion)
  • Creating a Hostile Workplace Environment

Sexual harassment falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is considered a form of discrimination, meaning employers are required to take steps to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. Victims of sexual harassment may not be physically harmed, but they can often suffer psychological injuries, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Where Do Private Investigators Fit In?

When a complaint is made regarding sexual harassment, many companies will consult with a private investigator in Knoxville to investigate it either for an internal disciplinary process or to pursue a legal inquiry. Involving a private investigator in Knoxville can help to ensure an unbiased approach. Let's take a closer look at how a private investigator will handle a sexual harassment investigation.

  • Gathering Evidence - A private investigator in Knoxville will gather evidence that is relevant to the allegations of sexual harassment. This might include photographs, videos, audio recordings, copies of emails and text messages, and any other evidence to support - or disprove the allegation.
  • Witness Testimony - A private investigator in Knoxville often needs to collect testimonies from potential witnesses. This could be colleagues, supervisors, or anyone else who may have witnessed or heard about the alleged harassment.
  • Background Checks - Often, sexual harassment claims can come down to a he said, she said situation if there are no witnesses and no concrete evidence. In this case, a private investigator in Knoxville may conduct background checks on those involved. This can help discover previous allegations or relevant behavior patterns pointing to previous misconduct or a history of making false reports.
  • Surveillance - Depending on the circumstances of the claim, it may be possible for a private investigator in Knoxville to carry out surveillance in order to catch the perpetrator in the act and corroborate the victim's claims. In some circumstances, it could absolve the accused party of guilt.
  • Documentation - One of the most significant benefits of using a private investigator in Knoxville to investigate sexual harassment claims is that they will compile all of the evidence and present it in a structured report that can be submitted as evidence to a disciplinary board or for legal proceedings.

Ethics & Confidentiality

When a company engages a private investigator in Knoxville to explore sexual harassment allegations in the workplace, ethical considerations are a priority. There must be confidentiality, and the investigator must adhere to privacy laws and company-specific data privacy policies during the investigation. The methods that are used to investigate the sexual harassment allegations must not intrude on the personal lives of any of the employees involved.

Challenging Aspects of Investigating Sexual Harassment

There are a number of factors that can make investigating sexual assault allegations challenging. This is why working with an experienced professional who is used to overcoming such obstacles can be beneficial. Some of these challenges might include the following:

  • Fear of Retaliation - One of the biggest challenges during a sexual harassment investigation is that witnesses or victims can be reluctant to cooperate. This is usually because they fear retaliation for speaking up.
  • Lack of Evidence - As noted above, sometimes it is one person's word against another with very little evidence to back up the allegations. This can make it a challenge to prove or disprove the allegations. However, an experienced private investigator in Knoxville has knowledge that will allow them to find evidence that may otherwise have been missed.
  • Navigating Company Hierarchy - When allegations involve a senior member of staff, such as a department head or supervisor, the company hierarchy can come into play. Low-level employees may not feel they can accuse or speak out about a senior staff member, so the investigator needs to have a clear picture of the company hierarchy and culture.

Uncover the truth!


Ken Shull served as a Special Agent with the FBI for almost 25 years and was head of the FBI Polygraph program until his retirement in 2001. At that time he set up the Kendall Investigations practice as a private investigator in Knoxville, TN offering Polygraph services, private investigations, and security guards. Ken is a member of the American Polygraph Association and The American Association of Police Polygraphists.

The Truth is Still the Truth Even if No One Believes it, A Lie is Still a Lie Even if Everyone Believes it.