Most corporations these days have adopted stringent workplace harassment policies or codes of Conduct to regulate behavior in the office. Between the times of the early 1980s, with women beginning to share the workplace more frequently, up to the publicized Senate hearings of Anita Hill, companies started to implement training seminars or yearly reviews about sexual harassment that are mandatory for every employee and contractor. Most businesses have established a zero tolerance policy. In part, my philosophy leads me to understand the economics that are all involved behind this. What I’ve noticed throughout the years, is that companies with minimal operating expenses tend to take a “Salting of the Earth” approach, and quickly remove all parties involved before potential lawsuits are filed. Other major organizations may outsource the task of investigating the matter to an impartial third party.
The mere mention of harassment in the work place puts human resources in a frenzy that gets noticed throughout the building. Meetings are held and phone conferences are conducted, performances are evaluated. It can be very intimidating. If you are accused of harassment, most large organizations, like my current employer, have woven into their ‘Code of Conduct’, a means to combat false accusations with consequences.
First Things First
Make sure that you are at your job doing what you get paid to do, and nothing else. If your current performance evaluation is at least moderate, you’ll start off painting a more favorable portrait of yourself. Look at your company’s rules on ethics, and verbally bring the matter to the attention of the floor manager or an operations manager. Don’t be afraid to use your personal contact information to officially report your accuser’s initial claim as a ‘false harassment report’.
In your report, include as much detail as possible. Describe how the ordeal makes you feel, list any fears that you have regarding the matter: are you noticing the behavior of those around close to your accuser changing toward you? How do you feel this will affect your performance? However, take consideration of those collaterally involved. Having their name documented in a harassment claim, can affect their future as well, even if your intention is to provide them as a character witness. Unless asked for specific names, you may be able to circumvent any disgrace by only mentioning the person’s title.
If your company’s benefits offer legal assistance, use the employer’s computer to look at your benefits, the company may have also begun to monitor your web history, which is okay in this case. Only use this method if your company offers this option as part of your benefit plan. I need not tell you that using company assets for anything unrelated to your employment can only hurt your situation.
Watch Your Back
Contact a lawyer in your state, the insurance coverage may vary, but in most cases, consultations would be free. This will give you more information about your options, as well as introduce you to someone who you may have to employ for a defense later. Very important, talk to nobody but your legal council, keep your mouth shut until the matter is resolved. If your position allows for it, and you have the discipline to do so, refrain from fraternization altogether.
Finally, document everything! Obtain a copy of both complaints for your records. Be sure to send any emails that you have regarding the matter to your personal email address. Most smart phones have the ability to take photos, and record sound, have it ready at all times during the ordeal. Before any conferences begin, be sure to record yourself telling Human Resources that you will be recording your conversation, make sure you get the audio of their response. For some ‘All-party Consent’ states like California, this is mandatory.
Our culture seems to be in the process of becoming desensitized to the implications of forced sexual deviancy. We are inundated by individuals who make no physical contribution to society, yet hold the admiration of that same society. They are further pepetuated by the advent of overnight-celebrities; concocted characters paraded before us on a daily basis in cheaply produced reality shows. To make up for the budget deficits; antics and buffoonery must generate ratings, and this gradually evolves our philosophies for how we handle our own lives.
Harassment and rape are very serious, and the accusation thereof, just like every sexual assault, has the power to change someone’s life forever. A harassment claim should only be used when the offense has been clearly defined. These measures have been created to address a serious violation, and haphazard misuse of them will certainly begin to dilute the voice of those that actually need it. If you are guilty of harassment, you should take your poison, learn from the experience and seek counseling to quell your demons. However in the event that you are falsely accused, I hope my suggestions bring you the solace of acquittal.