The recent #MeToo movement brought attention to the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Those who experienced this unacceptable and illegal behavior obtained a voice, and employers learned a swift lesson about how to prevent and address such incidents in their workplaces. You or your manager may have implemented or improved the protocol in your own Iowa business and perhaps provided training to help your employees understand the problem.
Nevertheless, you may not know when an employee or coworker may perceive something you say or do as harassment. If you are facing accusations of sexually harassing someone on the job, you would be wise to act quickly to protect yourself and your career.
Stay calm and take action
Allegations of harassment can quickly become emotional, and you are not unreasonable for feeling many different emotions, from fear to anger. However, it is important that you remain calm and proceed with care and caution. If your company has policies in place when an employee complains of harassment, your best course of action is to allow that process to move forward. You can help your cause by doing the following:
- Seeking legal advice about how best to cooperate with the internal or law enforcement investigation
- Gathering your own evidence, such as emails, text messages or memos
- Making notes about your recollection of the events described by your accuser
- Providing names and contact information of those who may have witnessed the events or who can alibi you
- Referring to your history with the company if that information confirms you have not had such complaints in the past
- Resisting any temptation to confront your accuser or to take any actions that someone may interpret as retaliation
- Avoiding any opportunities to gossip about the issue, even if it is just to vent with a coworker since these people may become part of the investigation
- Meeting with your human resources representative to discuss the matter
Your HR rep may be able to advise you on company policies and what you can expect during an internal investigation, but this person cannot provide legal advice or defend you during an investigation or lawsuit. In fact, it is likely that your accuser has already met with HR to file his or her complaint.
If you are looking for advice about the best way to proceed, it is better to rely on the counsel of your attorney. Your legal representative can inform you of your rights in the matter and guide you in the most appropriate way to defend yourself.