The Thinning Tightrope For Harassment Investigations


As many employers already know, sexual harassment claims are often disputed. A female victim alleges improper behavior by a male supervisor or co-worker. The accused male denies the allegations and suggests a possible ulterior motive for a false harassment claim.

If the employer is even slightly biased toward the accused as to a sexual harassment claim, the risk is a costly legal claim by the accuser. This risk remains even if the claim is of questionable credibility. In the wake of the #metoo movement, siding with the accused also risks a social media firestorm and poor female employee morale, especially if the employer has historically decided for accused harassers in sexual harassment investigations.

If the employer is even slightly biased toward the accuser as to a sexual harassment claim, the risk again is a costly legal claim by the accused. Again, this risk remains even if the accused harasser’s story is of questionable credibility. In the wake of last year’s Kavanaugh hearings, siding with the accusers risks a social media backlash and poor male employee morale, especially if the employer has historically decided for accusers in sexual harassment investigations.

It is not an overstatement, therefore, to describe the challenge faced by an employer presented with a disputed sexual harassment claim as a legal tightrope. Only by conducting a thorough and unbiased investigation can the employer successfully navigate the tightrope.

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