• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

False complaints? You must discipline

Get PDF file

by on
in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Plenty of employees have lots of legal savvy—enough to believe that filing a complaint might amount to a “get out of jail free” card. Particularly common is the belief that they can protect themselves from discipline by complaining about sexual harassment, even if they themselves also broke your harassment rules.

That’s a case of knowing just enough to be dangerous—to themselves.

Employers have the right to insist that all employees must follow reasonable workplace rules designed to prevent a hostile work environment for everyone.

And if you learn that the complaint may have been fabricated, discipline is certainly warranted.

Recent case: Regina, who worked for a temp agency, was assigned to the auto assembly line at a Hyundai factory in Alabama. She soon complained to the temp agency that her supervisor, a Hyundai employee, had sexually harassed her. She said he made inappropriate sexual comments and touched her in a way that she did not welcome.

The temp agency and the automaker initiated a joint investigation to get to the bottom of her complaint.

Unfortunately for Regina, the supervisor denied the allegations and Regina’s co-workers didn’t corroborate her account of events. In fact, they told investigators it was Regina who had made sexually charged comments, including once saying to her boss, “You're not talking to me today? If I had gave you some ***** it would have been different.”

Co-workers also told investigators that Regina had asked them about a previous sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Hyundai, in which a victim received more than $6 million.

Regina also allegedly asked her co-workers if an employee could be fired for lying.

Regina was terminated for violating Hyundai’s sexual harassment policies. She sued the manufacturer, alleging retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her case. It reasoned that her employers had shown it had legitimate reasons for disciplining Regina and that discovering those reasons during an investigation into her harassment complaint didn’t bar it from disciplining her. (Vickers v. Hyundai, No. 15-14905, 11th Cir., 2016)

Leave a Comment