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What Now? Employee Rights When Accused of Harassment

J Goldman Law May 28, 2024

Harassment allegations disrupt the harmony of the workplace, and they place a significant burden on the accused. Knowing your rights and understanding the appropriate steps can significantly change the outcome of such allegations.  

At J Goldman Law, we are dedicated to guiding individuals through these challenging situations with clarity and confidence. If you're facing a workplace harassment allegation, feel free to contact us now to find out how our employment law attorney can assist in your case.  

Types of Employee Harassment 

Employee harassment can appear in various forms, each contributing to an unhealthy and unproductive work environment.

One prevalent type is sexual harassment, which includes unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. These behaviors often create a hostile work environment and make the victim feel unsafe or uncomfortable.  

Another form is racial harassment, which involves derogatory or offensive remarks, jokes, or actions targeting an individual based on their race or ethnicity. This type of harassment can lead to a toxic atmosphere where diversity is not respected, and employees may feel discriminated against or excluded.  

Bullying and psychological harassment are also significant forms of employee harassment. Examples include repeated negative actions such as spreading rumors, undermining work performance, and public humiliation. Such behavior severely hinders an employee’s mental health and overall job satisfaction, leading to anxiety, depression, and a decrease in productivity. 

Disability harassment is when employees are targeted due to their physical or mental disabilities. This can involve mockery, exclusion, or undue pressure on the employee to perform tasks beyond their capabilities.  

Increasing awareness and addressing these types of harassment promptly is vital for creating a safe and equitable workplace. Employers must implement strict anti-harassment policies, provide regular training, and establish clear reporting mechanisms to protect all employees' rights. 

Immediate Steps to Take When Accused of Employee Harassment 

Employee harassment may not always be on purpose. Being mindful of others' reactions to words you say and actions you perform will allow you to better understand what to avoid to keep your peers comfortable around you.  

If you end up with an employee harassment accusation, whether you believe it's warranted or not, here's what we recommend: 

  1. Do not panic: First, stay calm and collected. When faced with an accusation of harassment, the immediate emotional response can be overwhelming. It is important to remain composed and approach the situation logically. Panicking or reacting impulsively can exacerbate the situation. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and prepare to address the matter systematically. 

  1. Review company policy: Every organization should have a clearly defined harassment policy, often outlined in employee handbooks or posted on internal websites. Familiarizing yourself with these policies can provide insight into the processes and procedures that will follow the allegation. This understanding can help you prepare and advocate for your rights throughout the investigation. 

  1. Seek legal counsel: Consider consulting with an employment attorney for guidance. They can provide invaluable advice on how to handle the situation and protect your rights. An attorney can also help you through any legal processes that may arise from the allegation. 

  1. Cooperate with investigations: Most companies will launch an investigation into any harassment allegations, which could involve interviews with you and other employees involved. It is in your best interest to cooperate fully and provide honest, detailed responses. Refusing to participate or providing misleading information can reflect negatively on your case. Collect and provide any relevant evidence supporting your case, and identify potential witnesses who can corroborate your side of the story. 

While dealing with an accusation of workplace harassment brings incredible stress, it is critical to understand that you have rights and that there are steps you can take to defend yourself. Remember, the way you respond can significantly impact the outcome, so approach the situation with a clear strategy and the right professional support

Understanding Your Rights 

Even when accused of employee harassment, know that you have these rights:  

  • Right to a fair investigation: Employers must conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation. One of the fundamental rights you have as an accused employee is the right to a fair and impartial investigation. Employers are obligated to investigate any allegations of harassment thoroughly and without bias. This means gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and providing an opportunity for you to present your side of the story. 

  • Right to remain employed: During the investigation, you have the right to remain employed unless there is a compelling reason for your suspension or termination. Employers must not act prematurely or without just cause. If you face unwarranted disciplinary actions during this period, it may constitute wrongful termination, and our attorneys can guide you on the legal recourses available. 

  • Right to confidentiality: The details of the allegations and the investigation process should be kept confidential to protect your privacy and reputation. Employers have a duty to ensure that information is disclosed only to those directly involved in the investigation. Breaches of confidentiality can lead to further legal action, and we can assist in addressing such violations.  

If your employer does not uphold these rights, it’s important to seek legal advice and take necessary steps to protect yourself. Our employment attorney can help you understand your rights and options and provide guidance on how to best handle the situation. 

Legal Protections & Repercussions 

Anti-retaliation laws aim to protect employees who participate in harassment investigations. Employers cannot retaliate against you for defending yourself or being part of the investigation. If you experience any form of retaliation, whether through demotion, isolation, or termination, legal protections are available, and we can help you take appropriate action. 

It's beneficial to know what constitutes wrongful termination. If you are terminated without cause or due to retaliation, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. At J Goldman Law, we are experienced in handling such cases and can provide the support needed to pursue justice and compensation. 

Potential Outcomes and Actions 

If the investigation concludes that you are not guilty of the allegations, you still need to take important steps, like managing your reputation. Consider speaking with HR about ways to restore your standing within the company or seeking legal advice on addressing any lingering impacts on your career. 

Understanding the potential disciplinary actions is important in cases where you are found guilty. These disciplinary actions range from required training sessions to termination. Know your rights and any options available for appeal. We can guide you through mitigating the consequences. 

If you believe the investigation's outcome is unjust, you have the right to appeal. This process involves a formal request for a review of the decision, often accompanied by additional evidence or witness testimonies. Our attorneys can assist in preparing an appeal and representing you throughout the process, striving for fairness and transparency. 

Dedicated Support for Your Case 

If you find yourself facing an employee harassment allegation, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance. Our lawyer at J Goldman Law is here to guide you every step of the way, providing the support and expertise you need to protect your livelihood and reputation. We can help you understand your rights in the situation and assist in developing a strategy to protect your interests. 

Always remember that you have the right to a fair investigation, to remain employed during the investigation, and to confidentiality. By staying informed and proactive, you can effectively manage the situation and maintain your professional integrity.  

If you are in New York City, including Midtown Manhattan, Madison Avenue, E 38th Street, or anywhere in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, Upper West Side, or Harlem, contact J Goldman Law today for a consultation.