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Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  JD, BBA, recognized by ABA for excellence.
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I was wrongfully accused of Sexual Harassment at work by a

Customer Question

I was wrongfully accused of Sexual Harassment at work by a co-worker of the opposite sex that was considered merely a friend. They have taken conversations out of context and reported me to the company's HR department for Sexual Harassment. Our conversations were two way conversations, and I can site specific examples of what this person deems offensive. Note that this person has indicated that they were offended to HR on certain occasions, but continued to willingly interact with me after some of these alleged incidents where they supposedly found our conversations offensive. I feel as though this person set me up and is simply motivated by financial gain or job advancement by doing this. When HR called me in to let me know that I had been reported for Sexual Harassment and was being sent home until the investigation was complete, I was in complete shock. I don't feel that I was given the opportunity to collect my thoughts and defend myself. I realize NY is an at will employment state and that my company can now let me go without cause. Whether I am or am not let go, do I have any recourse towards the accuser for slander or defamation of character? Is there any action I can take against the company if they don't come back and give me a fair opportunity to defend myself against these accusations? Am I entitled to be provided with the findings of their investigation regardless of the outcome? If I am unfairly let go, will future employers be able to find out that I was let go for sexual harassment or would it simply be noted that I was terminated from my position. From the companies perspective, is there exposure to a lawsuit from this person greater if I am let go versus if they choose to allow me to continue to work there? Worse yet, is there legal or criminal implications for me personally? I work for a major corporation in New York. It is crazy to me that anyone can make up something about you and ruin your good name and livelihood. Is there anything out there to protect the falsely accused?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome,

I am sorry to hear of your difficult situation and am working on your answer now.

Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
QUESTION: Whether I am or am not let go, do I have any recourse towards the accuser for slander or defamation of character?

ANSWER: Yes, such false allegations would typically give rise to a cause of action for defamation against the accuser as well as tort claims for interference with business relations, or related claims. The primary issue in these type of cases is often whether you can prove the statements are false, either through direct evidence (such as witnesses), or by circumstantial evidence, such as attacking the accuser's credibility such that it is more likely than not the statements were false.

Is there any action I can take against the company if they don't come back and give me a fair opportunity to defend myself against these accusations?


ANSWER: No, there is normally no recourse against a private employer as employees of private companies do not have a right to due process of law as would a public employee, unless the employer provides such a right by contract.


Am I entitled to be provided with the findings of their investigation regardless of the outcome?


ANSWER: No, but if suit is filed against the accuser, the documents can be subpoenaed.

If I am unfairly let go, will future employers be able to find out that I was let go for sexual harassment or would it simply be noted that I was terminated from my position. From the companies perspective, is there exposure to a lawsuit from this person greater if I am let go versus if they choose to allow me to continue to work there?

ANSWER: Yes, there is typically greater liability to the employer if you remain than if you are terminated unfortunately. If you retain an attorney to communicate with the employer and accuser, that could aid in balancing out the situation and the threat of litigation may even motivate the accuser to retract the false statements.

Worse yet, is there legal or criminal implications for me personally?

ANSWER: No, accusations of sexual harassment, unless involving sexual assault, do not typically give rise to criminal charges.

I work for a major corporation in New York. It is crazy to me that anyone can make up something about you and ruin your good name and livelihood. Is there anything out there to protect the falsely accused?

ANSWER: Retain a local employment law attorney with experience in this area. That can aid in preserving your career, even if not this job, it could save your reputation in the long run.

I hope you found my answer helpful, even if the law is not in your favor; please click on the ACCEPT button once I have answered your question. This is necessary for me to be paid for my work and so that I can get credit for assisting you. Your question will not close, and you will still have the opportunity to follow-up if needed. Leaving a bonus and positive feedback is not required, but doing so is certainly appreciated!

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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks so much for your prompt response.

 

What type of attorney should I look for? I tried finding an attorney, but again it seems like most specialize in protecting the accuser.

 

The one I did find told me to wait and see and then we would go from there. How do companies usually handle these investigations? Will they come back and tell me whether I can stay or have been let go? WIll I even have a chance to defend myself? If I wait and they let me go is there any hope to getting my job back?

 

If I hire a lawyer now, what exactly would they be contacting the employer or accuser to do? I am afraid that by doing so I may trigger litigation with the accuser and if I am out of a job that will become hard to pay for.

 

If I do retain a lawyer, what can I expect to pay and how is the payment usually structured?

 

If I don't hire a lawyer now simply because I am afraid to spend any money if I can potentially be out of a job, should I try to reach out to HR or sit and wait quietly? I am so scarred by this experience that I just don't know what to say anymore.

 

If I am unfairly let go, will future employers be able to find out that I was let go for sexual harassment or would it simply be noted that I was terminated from my position? Obvious this would ruin the good name I have built over the years, but will I ever even have a chance to procure another position in a corporate environment?

 

It is unjust that this type of thing can happen to undeserving people.

Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
Hello again,

I appreciate that you have many questions as this is a very stressful situation. However, I would only be guessing at many of the answers since it will require a thorough consultation with you and consideration of all the circumstances to determine the best strategy for dealing with this situation.

The attorney can negotiate a confidentiality agreement with the employer, among other things, to prevent this information from being disclosed to potential employers. That is one of the options available, depending on how this situation plays out.

Right now, I would work on locating a local employment law attorney who has experiencing defending the wrongfully accused. The state bar association can provide referrals. There are websites such as martindale.com and findlaw.com that provide information on attorneys as well, by area of practice and location.

All the best to you!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Okay.... your best guess to the questions posed in my previous post would be fine. Some info is better than no info at all.

 

Also, do you work in the NY/NJ area and are you available for hire?

Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
The website's TOS do not permit us to represent customers through this website unfortunately.

How do companies usually handle these investigations? Will they come back and tell me whether I can stay or have been let go? WIll I even have a chance to defend myself? If I wait and they let me go is there any hope to getting my job back?

 

If I hire a lawyer now, what exactly would they be contacting the employer or accuser to do? I am afraid that by doing so I may trigger litigation with the accuser and if I am out of a job that will become hard to pay for.

 

If I do retain a lawyer, what can I expect to pay and how is the payment usually structured?

 

If I don't hire a lawyer now simply because I am afraid to spend any money if I can potentially be out of a job, should I try to reach out to HR or sit and wait quietly? I am so scarred by this experience that I just don't know what to say anymore.

 

ANSWER: I would NOT refuse to spend the money for an attorney and cannot suggest whether to contact HR or not.

 

If I am unfairly let go, will future employers be able to find out that I was let go for sexual harassment or would it simply be noted that I was terminated from my position?

 

ANSWER: Without an agreement stating otherwise, the employer can inform potential employers that you were accused of sexual harassment and that is why you were terminated.

 

Obvious this would ruin the good name I have built over the years, but will I ever even have a chance to procure another position in a corporate environment?


ANSWER: I can't tell you for sure, but your chances are exceedingly better if you retain competent counsel to represent you, and promptly.



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Expert:  Tina replied 2 years ago.
How do companies usually handle these investigations? Will they come back and tell me whether I can stay or have been let go? WIll I even have a chance to defend myself? If I wait and they let me go is there any hope to getting my job back?

ANSWER: I really cannot answer these questions. Every company and situation is different.

 

If I hire a lawyer now, what exactly would they be contacting the employer or accuser to do? I am afraid that by doing so I may trigger litigation with the accuser and if I am out of a job that will become hard to pay for.

 

ANSWER: That would be determined after consulting with you.

 

If I do retain a lawyer, what can I expect to pay and how is the payment usually structured?

 

ANSWER: Usually they charge a retainer which is then reduced the hourly fee of the attorney.

 

 

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