What to Do When Falsely Accused of Harassment
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What Should I Do if I Have Been Falsely Accused of Harassment?
It’s an unfortunate reality that sexual harassment is the most common type of discrimination in the workplace. It leads to numerous employment lawsuits each year.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination consisting of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or an authority figure requests sex, sexual favors or a sexual relationship in exchange for either not firing or punishing the employee or in exchange for favors, such as a promotion or raise.
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when there are frequent or pervasive unwanted sexual advances, comments or requests. It can also occur when there is other verbal or physical behavior, like sexual jokes, displaying inappropriate offensive material (such as watching porn on your computer screen in the workplace), or persistent unwanted interactions, such as asking for dates continually.
With Whom Can Harassment Occur?
Harassment can occur between an employer and employee, between employees, or with candidates for employment.
Why is Harassment in the Workplace Such a Big Deal?
Anti-harassment laws tend to be somewhat strict when it comes to workplace standards. This is because in the past, harassment claims tended to go unreported due to fear of retaliation by a boss or another worker. For instance, the worker might feel pressure not to report an instance of harassment if their boss or supervisor threatens to fire them for reporting a violation. However, harassment can cause serious psychological and emotional damage to a person and should not be ignored or overlooked.
Firing an employee for filing a harassment claim is illegal under employment laws. This is called “retaliatory discharge” or “retaliatory firing.” This means that an employee can’t be fired for filing a harassment claim with the government, even if the claim turns out to be false.
What if Someone Falsely Accuses You of Harassment?
A false allegation of sexual harassment is one where the accuser brings an allegation knowing what is alleged never occurred. Malice is not a necessary requirement. Fabrications can also be considered false allegation.
False accusation of sexual harassment are illegal. Proving a false accusation requires an investigation. The investigation involves interviews with the accuser, the accused, and any potential witnesses. You can negate a false accusation with witness testimony contrary to the accuser.
If false claims of sexual harassment have damaged you, you have the right to pursue a defamation lawsuit. However, proceed with caution as these suits can be costly and must be proven beyond doubt that the sexual harassment claims alleged against you are without merit.
Should I Contact Human Resources or File a Lawsuit?
Whether you report a false claim to HR depends on the circumstance. In some cases, human resources can help resolve false claims of harassment. Some HR departments are too afraid that their inaction against the accused may lead to liability in the future should the sexual harassment claim be substantiated. In those cases, the accused may lose wages, promotions, or even her job, even though the claim of harassment is false.
A better remedy is to first file a harassment claim with a government agency before filing a lawsuit. It may be necessary to complete the steps required by the government investigation before you can file suit. If you are unsure, you may wish to contact a lawyer for advice on how to respond to an investigation.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a False Harassment Issue?
Knowing what to do when falsely accused of harassment is not intuitive. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer in your area if you feel that you might be facing legal action related to harassment. Your attorney can provide you with legal guidance and representation in court, and can also help determine your legal options.
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Last Modified: 05-11-2017 07:59 PM PDT
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