Harassment Investigations Must Be ‘Fundamentally Fair’ to the Accused — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Harassment Investigations Must Be ‘Fundamentally Fair’ to the Accused

Get PDF file

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

When a sexual harassment accusation arises, employers often move into crisis mode. But don't try to push the problem off your plate by quickly jettisoning the employee via a kangaroo court.

Sexual harassment investigations should be fairly concise (see box below). But they also must be fair to the accused employee, or else a court could deem your rush-to-judgment actions as proof of liability. The following case shows how important it is to gather the right proof before taking action.

Recent case: Hector Rivera-Garcia was hired on a one-year contract to serve as a department director at a private university. Rivera-Garcia was disabled and had trouble walking, so he requested accommodations, including moving meetings to the building's ground floor.

Toward the end of his contract, and before he had signed a two-year extension, a female secretary claimed that Rivera-Garcia sexually harassed her. The university immediately launched an investigation and fired Rivera-Garcia based on the results. He filed a sexual harassment suit, claiming the harassment charge was just a smoke screen for firing him due to his disability.

The court tossed out his case, noting that the school's investigation discovered that two female professors also believed that Rivera-Garcia made inappropriate comments to them.

Bottom line: Sexual harassment hearings must be "fundamentally fair" to the accused, the court said. It noted that "a kangaroo proceeding, devoid of any fairness, to evaluate a trumped-up sexual harassment charge" would be unfair. But that wasn't the case here. (Rivera-Garcia v. Sistema Universitario Ana Mendez, No 05-1659, 1st Cir., 2006)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: