Help! I’m Being Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault at Work

by Evil HR Lady on September 8, 2020

I am currently wrongful being accused of sexual assault that never happened and I am currently suspended. I am being investigated even though my supervisor nor the HR department never even talked to me about the situation. I have text messages, eyewitnesses, and can even get video recorded evidence to prove my innocence, but they won’t even talk to me. They are seemingly taker her word and only her word and running with it. I also feel like I am being discriminated against because I am male, while my manager and general manager are female. What do I do?

First, take a deep breath. Just because they haven’t talked to you yet, doesn’t mean they won’t talk to you.

Second, I would speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Yes, this will cost you money. Yes, it is worth it. NELA can help you find an employment lawyer in your area.

Now, let’s go through what’s going on here.

HR has to take any accusation seriously. They are legally obligated to investigate any claim of sexual harassment. You said assault, which is a much greater accusation, and I do think the police should be involved if there was an accusation of assault. Not everyone agrees with me. But, for my readers, if you’re sexually assaulted by a coworker, the correct thing to do is call the police first and then HR.

What HR doesn’t have to do is prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. They just have to act reasonably.

A responsible HR department will conduct a thorough investigation. That will mean speaking with you and listening to your evidence. Suspension is often the right thing to do during an investigation when the accusation is this serious. I would recommend suspension as well. I would also recommend paying you for the suspension if you are cleared and not paying if you are not cleared.

These things do take time. You know you are innocent and it’s super scary to have someone accuse you of something you didn’t do. You may wish to rush in and speak to all your coworkers and get them on your side. Don’t do this. It won’t look good.

Contact a lawyer, follow her advice. If you cannot afford an attorney, then write up an email detailing your evidence and send it to the HR manager. The subject line should be EVIDENCE RELATING TO THE [YOUR NAME]/[ACCUSER’S NAME] INVESTIGATION.

Make sure you send it from your home email and do not delete it. This prevents the HR manager from saying, “oh, I had no idea that this existed!”

And, start looking for a new job. I know you’re innocent. It’s possible to be found responsible anyway. HR managers aren’t not trained police officers. There is no judge and jury to sort out the evidence. And even if you’re cleared, you may find the environment unpleasant. I’m not saying this is how it should be–it shouldn’t. There should be no retaliation. But, there might be, and it’s better to start the job hunt now.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy Young September 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm

If you have evidence, gather it and keep it off-site. You say you can get video evidence; get it. Ask your eyewitnesses (or, preferably have your lawyer ask them) for statements.

I agree with Suzanne’s advice to get a lawyer and find a new job. I have a friend who was accused of sexual harassment. He was innocent and he proved his innocence. But he had to pay for a lawyer, and the company ended up giving a small settlement to the woman who’d worked the same scam at another company. So he felt that employer was one he no longer wanted to work for.

You need a lawyer when your interests aren’t identical to the company’s. You can personally be liable — civilly and criminally — if you’re found guilty. This is no time to pussyfoot around trying to handle this yourself.

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GreenDoor September 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

Also, resist the urge to reach out to your accuser! You’re already being accused of assault. The last thing you need is the perception that you’re trying to harass or bully your accuser into dropping the issue or changing her side of the story. Any communication to her should be through HR or your attorney.

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cornell guy September 8, 2020 at 6:12 pm

I spent 24 years in Personnel/LR/ER/HR, and I definitely saw shifting winds. As time went on, employers got more Draconian with their “zero tolerance policies.” Much like the political environment today, the immediate reaction is “FIRE him” every time someone is OFFENDED. I once had to write a 6-page “treatise” to my HR V-P, to defend myself, for NOT firing a guy.

My mentor taught me some words of wisdom that I carried throughout my career: “Termination is the Capital Punishment of industry. You don’t do it lightly. You’re not just firing the employee. You’re firing the spouse, the kids, their college fund, the mortgage and car payments, and the dog, too.”

In the case I referenced, I looked at sexual harassment as having three degrees of severity. The lowest would be inappropriate photos or “shop talk.” The worst would be physical assault or quid pro quo. On the other hand, I felt there was also a middle ground, involving good-natured “play” that went awry. That was the case on my desk, and I determined that a two-week suspension was sufficient to put an end to it. Then I had to defend MY job!

HR people who simply fire everyone are taking the cowardly easy way out, in my opinion. You have to do what is right, not only for the company, but for the accused employee.

I once had to work with a female V-P from another department, who was the typical “1980’s Tiger Lady.” She felt she had to be tougher than any man. She would curse like a drunken sailor and belittle her employees in public. You tell me how long a male would have gotten away with that.

If the facts determine an employee should be fired, then so be it. Just don’t fire “everyone” regardless of severity, or throw someone to the wolves as a sacrificial lamb, simply to make a point of how “tough” you are on sexual harassment. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I unnecessarily took away an employee’s or a family’s livelihood.

“Zero Tolerance Policy” aside, I’m sure every company would fire an employee for stealing, but you wouldn’t terminate him/her for taking a pen. As an HR person, your only real legal exposure in a sexual harassment case is if you do NOTHING, so do the RIGHT thing.

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Texan In Exile September 8, 2020 at 6:52 pm

employers got more Draconian with their “zero tolerance policies.”

Women got braver about speaking up about unacceptable behavior because employers finally started taking women’s concerns seriously.

There. Fixed it.

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Betsy September 9, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Thanks for that. Funny what a difference perspective makes.

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Dorothy Young September 9, 2020 at 4:17 pm

To the point Cornell guy makes, the LW should, as both Suzanne and I said, get an attorney. Sexual assault can be a felony. He needs representation.

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