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False complaints can hurt credibility of true harassment grievances

Reports of inappropriate actions or comments in the workplace should be taken seriously. Failure to take prompt corrective action against this, or other forms of harassment, could subject an employee to a hostile work environment and leave the employer open for a lawsuit.

One thing that can compromise the credibility of such employee reports is a fraudulent complaint. Believe it or not, there are men and women that look to take advantage of strict laws for workplace conduct and will misuse the system for personal gain. This is why complaints should be addressed and thoroughly investigated before a judgment is made. No employee or employer should automatically be considered at fault.

Just as employees should take proper actions to combat ill behavior, employers should make sure they are covered in the event of false reports. Generally, the human resource department at the company will conduct investigations into complaints of workplace harassment. But in order to provide the courts with a transparent, non-bias take on the matter, some law experts advise employers to enlist the help of a private investigator to look into the case.

The third party investigator will collect evidence and interview those involved just as the human resources department would. Meanwhile, law experts advise that a new supervisor be assigned to the employee that raised the complaint. If it is determined that an employee lodged a fraudulent complaint, they can be dealt with according to company policy. Usually, termination is acceptable in serious cases like this.

This played out in a 2012 case in California where a Los Angeles police officer claimed that his male superior sexually harassed him by commenting on his appearance and asking him out on a date. Internal affairs looked into the claim and determined the man was lying and was fired as a result.

It is important that employees only make legitimate complaints, otherwise it could affect the future credibility of workers forced to bear a hostile work environment.

Source: Anchorage Daily News, "Use third-party investigator for suspected false claim," Lynne Curry, March 18, 2012

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