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Be wary of disciplining for false complaints

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. We have an employee who has filed several sexual harassment complaints. But when we investigate, they turn out to be false. Can we do something about her? —J.P., Oklahoma

A. Several federal circuit courts have held that Title VII doesn’t protect bad-faith complainers. That said, no employer should discipline an employee for filing a harassment complaint unless there's rock-solid proof that the complaint was made in bad faith.

Example: The employee admits to several co-workers that she voiced the complaint solely to “stick it” to the alleged harasser. In other words, discipline should be administered only in exceptional circumstances. Just because a complaint lacks merit doesn’t mean it was the product of bad faith.

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