Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem as it can happen to anyone and can occur in different ways which can leave people severely traumatized. Numerous high-profile cases have brought to light the prevalence of this issue and have pushed many individuals to speak out against the matter.
However, there are cases wherein the harassment allegations are untrue. There are people accused of sexual harassment who have merely fallen into this unfortunate situation. What also makes this predicament terrifying is that the person facing possible false sexual harassment claims may be judged as guilty by their peers and co-workers even before any legal proceedings start.
What Happens to People Accused of Sexual Harassment at Work?
Companies are required to conduct an investigation whenever an employee reports a sexual harassment incident. The Human Resources department usually handles these cases, but third-party agencies can also help in the investigation. Consultants or attorneys may be hired by the company so that the investigation would be impartial which is also the standard when the accused is in a senior position. In such cases, the person accused of sexual harassment may get suspended until the company is finished with the investigation.
It is essential to understand that all of these protocols are normal and necessary. If you are caught sexually harassing your co-worker, the right thing to do is to confess and apologize. However, in cases wherein you are falsely accused of sexual harassment, there are specific actions that you can take.
What to Do When You Face False Sexual Harassment Allegations
Assist in the Investigation
When an investigation is proceeding, know that the best thing to do is to assist in the procedure. While it is natural to be defensive about this, cooperating with investigators shows you have nothing to hide. Your company is also going to conduct the investigation regardless of your presence in the office which makes your cooperation necessary.
There are numerous reasons why someone may want to accuse you of false sexual harassment allegations. Whether it’s because of your position or an act of cruelty, helping out with the investigation allows you to share your side of the story. By doing so, you clear your name from such accusations.
Apologize & Show Remorse
There are times that you may have said a badly-timed joke that can be deemed inappropriate by your co-worker. Though you may think that the other party is too sensitive, apologize nonetheless. In some cases, you may have looked at some part of your colleague’s body or made him or her uncomfortable. For this, apologies are necessary because the law dictates such actions as grounds for sexual harassment.
Understand that telling dirty jokes and touching your a co-worker isn’t illegal. What is against the law is doing any of these when they are without consent, or the other party gets offended by it like any other reasonable person. When all of these traits or circumstances are attributed to what you’ve done, only then can your behavior be considered as sexual harassment.
However, some behavior or jokes are hard to determine whether they’re wanted or not. In case you do or say something that offends your colleague, apologize and show remorse instead of brushing off the incident. One must always consider the sensitivity of other people.
Confess Any Insubordination
It’s normal to be attracted to someone from work. There are also cases where co-workers have a consensual sexual relationship. But there are companies with policies that forbid co-workers from dating each other, especially between bosses and their staff.
For example, sexual harassment allegations may come up after a breakup between sexually involved co-workers. If your company has such policies and you have a relationship with a co-worker anyway, prepare to confess insubordination to the rules as your Human Resources department and management are bound to find out about it. Lying about this will only put yourself in further danger.
Another scenario is searching for pornography or indecent images at work. If your colleague happens to walk past your cubicle and sees you doing this, just confess this. Your tech department would most likely know about your behavior before you even admit to doing them.
Seek An Experienced Employment Law Attorney
There is always a risk for employers to be taken to court when they don’t take corrective actions against an employee accused of sexual harassment. This is why they play safe and opt to terminate the accused employee instead. However, if the real reason is covered up and gets discovered as unlawful, the false harassment claim can lead to employer liability.
Understand that employers can’t take any corrective action against you until you are proven guilty. Your co-worker who falsely accused you can also receive the appropriate disciplinary actions. Lastly, every employer must act on good faith and be impartial when conducting these types of investigations.
Know that workplace discrimination and retaliation liability are possible claims that can come up when the accusations are proven false. If you have been accused of sexual harassment and know that these claims are untrue, seek the assistance of Mesriani Law Groups’ experienced employment attorneys in Los Angeles. Legal professionals understand the laws that can protect your rights and help you with other proceedings.