Columbus, OH- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is facing an avalanche of criticism after allegations emerged that he inappropriately intervened when an intern in the AG’s office filed a sexual harassment complaint.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the sexual harassment allegations came to light when an intern who worked in the AG’s office for two summers turned down a full-time position after she graduated from high school. In her allegations, which she later recanted, the intern said the harasser was an older attorney with close ties to DeWine.

The complaint was referred to the equal employment compliance officer, Kristin Cadek, who was then approached by DeWine so he could determine the identity of the complainant. Cadek didn’t want to reveal the interns identity because she was concerned about retaliation, the Dispatch reported, but eventually relented, finally revealing the accuser’s name.

A spokesman for DeWine said he spoke with the intern about the allegations, but that was the extent of his involvement. However, three days after DeWine spoke with the intern, the allegations were dropped, and no disciplinary action was taken against the harasser whose identity remained confidential. DeWine’s critics to say he acted inappropriately in this situation and abused his power to protect his friend.

Many people in the AG’s office don’t think he acted inappropriately, since he is the boss and should know what is going on in his office. But sexual harassment attorneys, and DeWine’s critics say he shouldn’t have inserted himself in the investigation.

People who report sexual harassment are often afraid to come forward because they worry about retaliation. Many victims of sexual harassment would rather quit their job or endure the harassment than face the possibility of being punished or subjected to additional harassment for coming forward with allegations.

Sexual harassment can be damaging to the workplace as a whole so employers really need to handle allegations gingerly. All sexual harassment allegations, regardless of whether an employer believes them or not, need to be thoroughly investigated to determine if they are true. This may be a time consuming process, but is the only way to make certain employees are protected from sexual harassment and harassers are appropriately disciplined.

Also, the complainant’s identity should be kept confidential to shield them from retaliation. Too many employers, however appear to be concerned with protecting the harasser than the victim which discourages other victims from coming forward. This means a harasser can get away with their misconduct over and over again and a business will suffer in the long the run.

When employer don’t investigation complaints or punish a harasser, the victim should consult with a sexual harassment attorney to determine if they have grounds to file a civil suit. The support of an attorney can give a harassment victim the confidence they need to speak up about their harassment, and force their employer to take the appropriate actions.