While over 75 percent of those surveyed say that the #MeToo movement has had a positive impact on their employment, 44% of men and 36% of women say that the #MeToo movement has damaged trust between the HR department and employees.
For thirty years, HR has been the department charged with preventing, policing and investigating sexual harassment claims, a mission that has taken on new vigor with the #MeToo movement. While employees welcome the increased scrutiny and consequences for those who engage in sexual harassment, there are those who complain that false accusations of sexual harassment have cost them their reputations or their jobs.
What are the rights of the falsely accused?
If an employee is falsely accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, there is not a lot they can do. Certainly, following an investigation, an employer can elect not to take corrective action against the accused and even discipline the complainant for making a false complaint – but what if they get it wrong? Not wanting to take the chance and risk a legal fight, employers might just opt for firing the accused who has limited rights under federal and state laws to challenge the termination. It’s a matter of hiring and firing at will – employers are free to terminate an employee for no reason or even a bad reason as long as it is not a reason prohibited by law such as discrimination or retaliation.
Weaponizing Sexual Harassment Complaints
When the real reason for discharging an employee is unlawful – perhaps covering up the real reason with a false accusation of harassment – an employer may be liable under the law. Say for example, a supervisor and their employee do not like another employee because he or she is older or from another country and doesn’t fit in or maybe that employee reported a safety issue in the workplace that has led to resentment among the staff. If someone falsely accuses the employee of sexual harassment because of prejudice or to get even which results in a negative employment action such as wrongful termination, the employer could be subject to an employment discrimination or retaliation lawsuit if they neglect to take a closer look.
Contact a Wrongful Termination Lawyer for Help
If you are falsely accused of sexual harassment, it is a good idea to hire experienced employment law counsel while insisting on a thorough, unbiased investigation and asking to see evidence or other support of a good faith belief that you engaged in sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct. If your employment is wrongfully terminated following a false accusation and you feel that there is another reason such as discrimination (on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), and disability or in retaliation for blowing the whistle on unsafe practices in the workplace – contact our wrongful termination lawyers to discuss your situation at 515-244-1473.