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Thread: Rights under termination for Sexual Harrasment- Indiana Indiana

  1. #1
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    Default Rights under termination for Sexual Harrasment- Indiana Indiana

    Do I have a case?

    I was fired 3 months ago for sexual harrasment. I was notified (by cell phone) on a Friday (my day off) that my superiors needed to meet with me about something urgent but they wouldn't elaborate. I was out of town at the time with my daughter and finacee and couldn't attend the meeting. They informed me that my manager would meet with me privately on my next working day which was Sunday. I came in to work and was confronted by my manager and told that I was on administrative leave pending a thorough investigation into claims of sexual harrasment. The woman that notified me on Friday was our HR manager. She left Saturday morning for N. Carolina to visit family, and didn't return to work until monday morning. She contacted me at 11am Monday morning and asked if there were any comments that I might have made or gestures, any thing that may have gave someone the wrong impression, because as we all know sexual harrasment is about perspective. I told her that, she knew me and this type of thing was not up my alley and if I was I would not commit such an act while my fiancee worked in the same building! We ended the conversation with her telling me that: "...everything will be fine I will dig deep into this and get it resolved. You'll be back to work in no time." She called me 45 minutes later and terminated me for sexual harrasment.

    Question #1 - What kind of evidence is needed to support termination for sexual harrasment? Since I know I did nothing wrong, what could have prompted this?

    Question #2 - How long does a 'thorough' investigation into these matters take before a decision is reached?

    Question #3 - Do I have a legal course of action here, since all my job hunting attempts have met with disaster because some one in that HR department is slandering me to potential employers when they call for a reference.

    I still have some friends that are employed there. Former employees of mine and collegues who have filled me in on who may have started this ball rolling. But I am afraid to take legal action because I can't afford an attorney right now. I can't even get a job!

    Please help,

    Desperatley seeking resolution.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbman View Post
    Do I have a case?
    Question #1 - What kind of evidence is needed to support termination for sexual harrasment?
    None. After a complaint is lodged, most companies will investigate, review the facts, then make a judgement call on what to do, based on what they believe happened. They do not have to prove you 'guilty beyond a reasonable doubt' (that's for criminal court). In addition, your actions need not rise to the legal definition of 'sexual harassment' in order to be actionable. Remember, the company is never under any obligation to employ you. If they feel it's in their best interest to sever the employment relationship, they certainly have the right to do so.

    Question #2 - How long does a 'thorough' investigation into these matters take before a decision is reached?
    Depends on the complexity of the situation. Can be 15 minutes or several weeks. Most of the SH investigations I've done took a few hours.

    Question #3 - Do I have a legal course of action here, since all my job hunting attempts have met with disaster because some one in that HR department is slandering me to potential employers when they call for a reference.
    I don't see any. The law requires the employer to take corrective action if it feels sexual harassment has occurred. Legally speaking, it's better for the company to over-react than to under-react. Sometimes the result is a heavy-handed response.

    Call the HR department and ask them what information they will release if they are contacted for a reference on you. Or, have a friend perform a reference check on you, and see what they say. Remember that the company is not required to withhold information, and they are free to give their opinions (even if unflattering). What they aren't allowed to do is maliciously and deliberately disseminate information about you that they KNOW is false. That's what you'd have to prove to have a solid slander/defamation case.

    Have you filed for unemployment benefits yet? You'll probably get a good idea of what the company's position is during this process. If they contest your claim for u/c benefits, they'll typically have to establish that you were in fact terminated for misconduct.
    Last edited by CLee; 10-03-2008 at 12:37 PM. Reason: correcting typos
    I am a human resources professional, not an attorney. This is my opinion based on the limited facts presented and is not legal advice.

  3. #3
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    Okay, I see that you posted the same thing multiple times, but that no one answered the questions in any of the threads (so far).

    1. In most situations, an employer does not need any evidence of the sexual harassment to terminate. You can be termed just on the suspicion of it. But an employer would not be wise to just term people whenever things are "suspected." In the investigations I've done, termination only happened if there was some credible (clear & convincing) evidence (like e-mails or notes, two or more witnesses with corroborating stories, or a pattern of being accused repeatedly of the same or similar offense).

    Many investigators use these possible outcomes: Substantiated, unsubstantiated, unsubstantiated with concerns, or unfounded. If there is some evidence like I mentioned above, it's substantiated. That doesn't mean "proven beyond reasonable doubt" just that there is something credible to back upt he accusation. If no evidence is found, it's unsubstantiated. But if other things come up in the investigation that aren't actual proof, but point to the possibility, it becomes unsubtantiated with concerns. Unfounded is when we actually find evidence that the accusation was false, or that there was clearly no way it could have happened (like if the accused was out sick on the day the accuser said something happened). In many cases, an employer is forced to decide to terminate even if it's "unsubstantiated with concerns."

    It's sometimes a judgment call: would the employer rather fire you and have to pay the UI and risk a possible unsuccessful suit by you, or not fire you and risk a probable successful suit by the accuser?

    I do not know what could have prompted this. If you are innocent like you say, perhaps someone had it in for you? It does happen.

    2. I've done very thorough investigations in a single day, and then I've done a few that lasted a few weeks, mostly because arranging multiple interviews was difficult. Most of them take 2-3 days. Basically "thorough" is defined by whatever the company's legal counsel says "thorough enough" is.

    3. It's only slander if someone intentionally says something false. They are also allowed to give their opinions, and that is not slander. If HR is saying you were fired for suspicion of sexual harassment, they are not lying; that;s the reason you were fired. If they are saying you're a "sexual predator" or a "rapist" or something like that, it might be slanderous.

    Again, winning a slander case would be very, very difficult. It's much more likely that the accuser would win a settlement if the employer did not term you. Unfortunately, the employer had to weigh their risks, and sometimes that means a liar wins. It's frustrating.

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    CLee typed faster than me, but it looks like we agree.

    Yes, apply for UI. If Indiana is anything like NJ, the reviewer will probably require nothing short of a videotape of you molesting a coworker, while setting the building on fire, in order to not award you UI benefits.

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    The truth is that you have no rights where a sexual harrassment claim is involved which totally goes against our concept of "innocent until proven guilty". Filling a lawsuit will create more problems that it will solve, plus the State may file charges against the accused for retaliation as they did in our situation.

    About a year ago, my company was involved in a false sexual harrassment claim. It caused many problems as the accuser was very vocal and other employees choose up sides and vigorously defended their choice. There were many more issues involved in the incident that finally produced a resolution. Through her attorney, the accuser willing admitted that she lied for personal gain. That created even more problems as there was now open hostility within the company. No one won, not the accusser, the accussed, other employees or the company.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    After that, I did some checking. Per EEOC statistics and statements;

    Sexual harrassment is an issue where someone can file a claim, does not have to provide any proof other than a verbal accusation, may receive monitary compensation, get someone terminated and is protected even if the claim is proved to be false and even if the accused was terminated because of the false claim. The accused has no protection under the law, may not even know who accused them, may not have the right to defend themselves, will be accused of retaliation by the State if they get an attorney and may be terminated based on an investigation performed by someone who may or may not be qualified to perform such an investigation or on no investigation at all.

    From 1992 thru 1996, 33% of all sexual harrassment claims filed with the EEOC were found to have "No Reasonable Cause". No Reasonable Cause means that EEOC determined that they had no cause to believe that the incident actually occurred. From 1997 thru 2006, 41.9% of all sexual harrassment claims were found to have "No Reasonable Cause". From 1997 through 2006, $65,000,000 was paid out for sexual harrassment claims.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Last edited by aswas71788; 10-03-2008 at 04:25 PM.

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    Maybe I am being old fashioned, but does this scream 'unfair' to anyone else? Why is there no law against this type of thing? Why is there no requirement for proof or evidence to support claims like these? Wouldn't this curb the statistics regarding false and unsupported claims that I have read so much about and seen posted here? The idea of 'guilt by perspective' is not only random and arbitrary but it ruins peoples lives...and Justice (which I was raised to believe is served by the law) is not satisfied.

    Sorry to vent, and sorry about the multiple posts, I appreciate the advise.

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    Yes, it is unfair. But the alternative is even more unfair. The current situation evolved because women (and men) who were legitimately being sexually harassed, including having their job depend on providing sexual favors, had little to no recourse. They could be fired for not participating and they could be fired for complaining. You don't want to know some of the horror stories I've heard from investigators.

    Thus the decision to make, making a sexual harassment complaint, a protected right.

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    I just want to add a couple of things to the above.

    First, employers are not courts of law. They do not have to gather evidence and bring in "CSI" to find out who did or did not do what to whom. If you are asking if all it takes for upper management to decide to let you go is whom they believe more or whom they think is more likely to sue the company and win, you are correct.

    Second, it is perfectly legal for a reference call on you to receive "we fired him for sexual harassment"... because that is the truth.
    Not everything that makes you mad, sad or uncomfortable is legally actionable.

    I am not now nor ever was an attorney.

    Any statements I make are based purely upon my personal experiences and research which may or may not be accurate in a court of law.

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    Default To Cyjeff

    I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was 'whining' about having lost my position unfairly. I am merely seeking some legal advise on what my right are at this stage. I am not the kind of person to take something lying down. If there is action to be taken I would take it regardless of my financial status. Right is right.

    And if I may respond to the last statement in your post:

    Had my employer made me mad, sad or uncomfortable while I was still employed then that may have created a hostile work environment (or at least by my perception) and I WOULD have had a legal recourse at that point, as a victim of harrasment, according to the majority of harrasment laws that I have read about. Because thats really what we're talking about isn't it? Perception, not fact.

    I am not mad or upset that I got fired unfairly for harrasment, it was the company's loss as far as I am concerned, but that there was no legal action to take to clear my name to future employers. If a man/woman is accused of a crime here in the real world, and then later cleared of all charges, It would be documented that they were cleared. And the state would still be able to say upon background check that: "Yes, he/she was accused and arrested for said crime. BUT, they were cleared of all charges, and were never actually guilty."

    It is simply my wish that matters in the work place where handled the same way. There is nothing wrong with dismissing/terminating/suspending someone because you THINK they may have done something wrong. Then it is contained and no one is hurt and the company saves face. But if you have no facts then it is WRONG to destroy their reputation outside of that environment...ie...a potential future employer. (by the way I did have a friend call in to perform a reference check on me with this employer and the results where startling, random and down right disgusting! There was one point that I got on the phone myself and asked the name of the person I was speaking to and they hung up laughing!)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbman View Post
    I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was 'whining' about having lost my position unfairly. I am merely seeking some legal advise on what my right are at this stage. I am not the kind of person to take something lying down. If there is action to be taken I would take it regardless of my financial status. Right is right.

    And if I may respond to the last statement in your post:

    Had my employer made me mad, sad or uncomfortable while I was still employed then that may have created a hostile work environment (or at least by my perception) and I WOULD have had a legal recourse at that point, as a victim of harrasment, according to the majority of harrasment laws that I have read about. Because thats really what we're talking about isn't it? Perception, not fact.

    I am not mad or upset that I got fired unfairly for harrasment, it was the company's loss as far as I am concerned, but that there was no legal action to take to clear my name to future employers. If a man/woman is accused of a crime here in the real world, and then later cleared of all charges, It would be documented that they were cleared. And the state would still be able to say upon background check that: "Yes, he/she was accused and arrested for said crime. BUT, they were cleared of all charges, and were never actually guilty."

    It is simply my wish that matters in the work place where handled the same way. There is nothing wrong with dismissing/terminating/suspending someone because you THINK they may have done something wrong. Then it is contained and no one is hurt and the company saves face. But if you have no facts then it is WRONG to destroy their reputation outside of that environment...ie...a potential future employer. (by the way I did have a friend call in to perform a reference check on me with this employer and the results where startling, random and down right disgusting! There was one point that I got on the phone myself and asked the name of the person I was speaking to and they hung up laughing!)
    Sorry.

    I was replying to a different poster here.

    Now then... the "Mad, sad or uncomfortable" part is my signature. It appears on all my posts. However, if the shoe fits...

    Second, can you prove that anything they are saying is a lie?
    Not everything that makes you mad, sad or uncomfortable is legally actionable.

    I am not now nor ever was an attorney.

    Any statements I make are based purely upon my personal experiences and research which may or may not be accurate in a court of law.

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    Had my employer made me mad, sad or uncomfortable while I was still employed then that may have created a hostile work environment (or at least by my perception) and I WOULD have had a legal recourse at that point, as a victim of harrasment, according to the majority of harrasment laws that I have read about. Because thats really what we're talking about isn't it? Perception, not fact.

    I don't think you understand discrimination laws. A HWE exists ONLY when there is a pervasive atmosphere of prohibited discrimination (gender, race, religion, etc.) You don't have legal recourse simply because your employer makes you mad, sad, or uncomfortable - that does not constititute prohibited harassment nor an HWE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aswas71788 View Post
    Through her attorney, the accuser willing admitted that she lied for personal gain.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    After that, I did some checking. Per EEOC statistics and statements;

    Sexual harrassment is an issue where someone can file a claim, does not have to provide any proof other than a verbal accusation, may receive monitary compensation, get someone terminated and is protected even if the claim is proved to be false and even if the accused was terminated because of the false claim.
    I agree with much of what you posted, except the section pasted here. An accuser who "willingly admits that she lied for personal gain" would be summarily fired by every company I know. I would even encourage the innocent accused party to sue the accuser for damages in civil court. In my opinion, he would have a good case for defamation of character if the accuser admitted to fabricating the story. Complete fabrications are inexcusable, and not something I would tolerate at all.

    With that said, claimants who make a good faith report of potential sexual harassment ARE protected. Companies WANT the conduct reported as early as possible, so they can intervene before mere inappropriate behavior escalates into illegal behavior (sexual harassment). Punishing the complaintant for reporting the behavior is counterproductive to that goal.

    In my experience, the vast majority of sexual harassment complaints involve differences in perception between the two parties involved.

    The accuser will say that she feels harassed and intimidated by the behavior, but the accused will claim that his actions/remarks were innocent and he "didn't mean it" the way the accuser perceived it. In these cases, no one can be proven to be blatantly lying. They are just viewing the events from their own (biased) perspective.

    The employer must act from the standpoint of minimizing risk and maintaining a professional work environment, so it responds accordingly.
    I am a human resources professional, not an attorney. This is my opinion based on the limited facts presented and is not legal advice.

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