False Sexual Harassment Allegation

What happens when a false sexual harassment claim is aimed at you!

Your manager calls you into the office and reads a complaint that states a sexual harassment charge has been made against you.

Your first reaction is probably one of disbelief and amazement. You ask yourself “who is it that I’m supposed to have sexually harassed?”

One of the most important things any employee must learn about is sexual harassment in the workplace.

Unfortunately sexual harassment in workplace situations has become a serious problem for both the employee and the employer. Anyone in the workplace who doesn’t have a clear understanding of sexual harassment laws puts themselves at risk of a sexual harassment false claim.

What is sexual harassment? For that definition you have to look to the (EEOC) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the EEOC sexual harassment is “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

The California Fair Employment & Housing Act calls sexual harassment “harassment based on sex or of a sexual nature; gender harassment and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Offensive behavior of different types is also an important part of this Act.

false sexual harassment

False Accusation of Sexual Harassment

There is no sexual harassment if the co-worker(s) involved welcomes the conduct. Only unwelcome conduct is offensive if the person on the receiving end perceives it that way. There are two basic types sexual harassment.

Quid Pro Quo
A female manager tells a male employee to take care of her “needs” or he’s out of there. He refuses and then is fired by the manager. This applies only to someone who has the authority to manipulate employment actions (hiring, demotions, terminations, promotions)

Hostile Work Environment
This happens when conduct or unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature interferes with an employee’s job performance and creates a offensive environment to work in.

Here are some examples of conduct that can create a hostile work environment.

  • unwelcome touching
  • posting or displaying sexually suggestive cartoons or pictures
  • making sexually suggestive hand or body movements
  • offensive language
  • talking about sexual encounters
  • staring or leering in a sexually suggestive way
  • speaking inappropriately, like “hey sweet thang”
  • destroying or altering a co-workers work

These actions among others have to be pervasive, severe and involve the gender of the employee affected. There can be sexual harassment even if the actions don’t involve anything sexual in nature. If a male employee vandalizes, destroys or changes a female co-workers work project it’s still sexual harassment because of her gender.

false sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment may be False…

…if there are no witnesses to confirm the sexual harassment allegation.

It can be difficult to prove or deny sexual harassment in employee interactions.

Research shows that a significant number of sexual harassment of workers complaints filed with the EEOC are shown to be unjustified.

The employee falsely accused of sexual harassment can find it hard to prove his or her innocence. There is also a disturbing trend of false sexual harassment accusations being used for discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. In one situation a white female employee reportedly had made racist statements and kept confederate flag paraphernalia on the job.

This employee accused a black male employee of sexual harassment who was then fired without any due process. The sexual harassment allegation was later proven to be false.

There has been a dramatic increase in sexual harassment lawsuits filed with the EEOC. Damages awarded to victims have also increased over the last several years. Because of this some businesses have chosen a “knee jerk” sexual harassment policy that treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent.

false sexual harassment

Accused of Sexual Harassment

Being accused of sexually harassment in the workplace can create a very unhealthy environment, especially if you are falsely accused. If you are accused here are some steps you can take.

Cooperate with your company’s investigative process
Answer questions honestly and ask questions about the process. You will probably be asked whether specific accusations are true or false.

Some businesses have a policy of not revealing who your accuser is. If they do don’t retaliate against them or anyone involved.

Your organization may have a policy of not communicating with specific people while the investigation is ongoing.

Remain Calm
I can’t emphasize that enough! An angry person overreacts and makes poor decisions among others things, all bad. It may be tough listening to the accusations against you that you know are not true. STAY CALM

Stay Informed
Always question management about how the investigation is progressing. Your employer has a duty to keep you informed of what its findings and conclusions are.

The employer is responsible and accountable to fairly and equitably conduct a sexual harassment investigation for the accuser and the accused. This is especially true if the accused is you! It is important to understand that your name and reputation may not be completely restored if the sexual harassment claim is proven false.

The intent of businesses and organizations must be to learn the truth about what actually happened no more no less. Sometimes the sexual harassment investigation proves neither guilt nor innocence especially if the only evidence is “my word against yours”.

false sexual harassment

I don’t believe anyone really knows how many times a false sexual harassment has been made against an employee punished wrongly by the employer. If your company says you are guilty of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct you should expect one or more of the following.

  • Written or oral reprimand and warning
  • Termination
  • Suspension
  • Change of work schedule (separate you from the accuser)
  • Demotion

In the event that it’s not proven that sexual harassment took place the employer may take other steps to emphasize the importance of preventing sexual harassment in the future.

  • Require sexual harassment education for all employees
  • Post sexual harassment policy in all areas
  • Require employees to sign letters of understanding about sexual harassment

How to Avoid a Sexual Harassment Accusation

Learning how to prevent sexual harassment allegations is one the wisest decisions anyone can make in the workplace. If you are ever accused of sexual harassment on the job, it would be a good idea to consult with a competent employment law attorney.

false sexual harassment

As an employee I am continuing to learn and understand how sexual harassment scenarios can get started. Be aware of the words and deeds that can place you in situations of being falsely accused of sexual harassment.  If you believe that you have been falsely accused, then it may be necessary to seek out an attorney for legal services.

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