You Just Discovered a Worker May Be a Paedophile: What Now?
Finding out that someone you know might be a paedophile can cause quite a shock. And when that person is an employee, a whole raft of questions can surface at once. Who reported this, and in what manner? How should you go about finding out the facts in the fairest way possible? Plus – how might a risk assessment be useful in the workplace around this issue? Importantly, don’t jump to conclusions. Thoughtful action and fair processes should be at the heart of everything that you do.
How did this come to light?
The way in which the discovery occurred can directly affect your first actions. Consider a very grave case, such as where an employee who works with children has been witnessed by others engaging in inappropriate behaviour. This would require immediate action directed towards the welfare and safety of all concerned. Professionalism and restraint are essential in such circumstances.
At the other end of the reporting spectrum, the nature of notification might be more speculative. If rumours about an employee arise regarding their apparent pedophiliac behaviour and opinions, it is important to take a more measured approach. Procedural fairness requires that unverified opinions be carefully analysed before any action is taken. A standard workplace investigation process would be an appropriate course of action in such cases.
NB: Some jurisdictions have mandatory reporting and investigation requirements – make sure you know if you are required to report to ensure compliance.
Unfortunately the law is quite a grey area regarding disclosures required from employees at recruitment. Without specific mention being made in an employment contract, courts often determine that employees are not obliged to report former misconduct. A well-drafted employment contract can, however, go some way to ensuring that particular types of past misconduct are revealed to the future employer. It is the coverage contained in this contract that can make a world of difference down the track. It might seem quite disturbing, but in medical terms a paedophile is not considered a criminal per se. What should concern employers is the presence of any past or potential child abuse actions, such as child molestation. It is therefore behaviour – past and present – that must be considered.
Finding out the facts
As noted above, how you go about investigating the discovery of a potential paedophile in the workplace requires a careful and professional approach. The first issue is timing. If the dire scenario of inappropriate dealing with children in a workplace is reported, immediate action is needed prior to a more in-depth inquiry. Depending upon the strength of initial evidence, a period of instant stand-down might be necessary for the worker. Immediate safety for all involved should be provided, plus police assistance where necessary. Yet if the case is more one of speculation and innuendo, a thorough and measured workplace investigation might be more appropriate.
The fair investigation
Where the initial information is less clear and/or children are not in the worker’s vicinity, an investigation should commence – premised on procedural fairness. Whether this is internal or external will depend upon workplace resources and capabilities. Documents such as the employment contract used at recruitment, any hard-drive material extricated by IT, and statements from colleagues might be some of the materials used within the investigation. Fairness demands that the worker in question be given an opportunity to comprehend and respond to any allegations made. A designated support person and the recording of discussions would be prudent measures to adopt.
Conducting a risk assessment
With some researchers estimating the prevalence of paedophilic drive in the male community alone at 0.5-1%, the reality is that potential harm in and around the workplace is a live issue. It is of course impossible at interview to vet workers for all potential behavioural problems. Yet you can certainly assess for risk, and make any alterations that appear necessary. Some workplace features to look for when assessing paedophilia-related risk are:
- Targeted recruitment processes, including past-employment analysis, prior misconduct checks, criminal history checks and psychometric testing. Referee checking without exception.
- Widely-disseminated education materials within the workplace about what is/ is not appropriate in terms of behaviour, computer use, and personal interaction etc.
- Clear and specific directives for employees who work with children, including adult/ child ratios, plus touch, toileting and communication protocols.
- Appropriate space and lighting features to ensure open work areas.
- Well-publicised reporting procedures for workers, enabling fast and responsive action where problems are detected or suspected.
If significant risks are revealed around potential paedophiliac behaviour in the workplace, a plan for rectification will be in order. Where employees are working with children, this would almost certainly become a matter of necessity. Because some measures are worth taking the time to get right.