I have been accused of harassment. What are my rights?

I was accused of harassment and the accusation is false. What rights does one have to counter? My current employer can or will not answer my questions. I have been asked to take sensitivity training to appease this person, and I stated that I would take training but not to appease this person. What can I counter with? Seems like a stacked deck. To me it is like reverse discrimination or intimidation. Thanks for your help.

Posted 11-12-2014

Ann Kiernan replies:

First, you are entitled to a full and fair investigation of the complaint. That means that you should be told about the evidence that you engaged in harassment or other inappropriate conduct, and have an opportunity to tell your side of the story, being able to present witnesses or documents in support of your position.

Second, be aware that your employer is entitled to act on a good-faith belief that the allegations are true, after a reasonable investigation. Unless you admit the harassment or the complainant confesses that the complaint was a lie, the employer almost always has to choose between two (or more) competing versions of the truth. The standard is the preponderance of the credible evidence,not beyond a reasonable doubt (the standard used in criminal cases).

Third, remember that the law requires employers to take appropriate, remedial action. If the accusation against you is doubtful, the employer should not take disciplinary action. But, even if the allegations are completely unsubstantiated, it is a good idea for your employer to remind both you and the complainant about your company’s policies on proper workplace conduct. I am glad to see that you are willing to take the opportunity for some training in this area, and hope you take full advantage of it.

Fourth, you are entitled to have the investigation conducted as confidentially as possible. You should ask for assurances that the investigation will be disclosed only on a “need to know” basis.

You may want to consult a local employment law attorney for more information about your rights. Good luck.

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2016-11-18T16:00:38+00:00

About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.