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Employee admits sexual harassment? Be sure documentation reflects that

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in HR Management,Human Resources

When investigating sexual harass­­­ment, make sure you document every interview, including any with the alleged harasser. Note exactly what he says, admits to or denies.

That way, if you end up discharging the alleged harasser, you minimize the chances that he might win a defamation lawsuit against your organization. Any admissions the harasser made during your investigation will confirm that you didn’t share false information with anyone else.

Recent case: John, a police officer, was the target of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Following the investigation, he was fired.

He applied for a number of jobs with other law enforcement agencies, always signing a consent form for his former employer to share information in his personnel file.

After being turned down by several agencies, John sued his former employer. He alleged it had spread false information about him and thus prevented him from finding another job.

But the former employer shared the contents of its investigation file on John. That included a copy of statements in which John admitted making harassing sexual comments, gestures and contact with female subordinates. He also had admitted visiting sexually explicit websites on his work computer.

That was enough for the court to toss out John’s lawsuit. It did not believe any of the derogatory information in his file was false. (Torrey v. New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, 3rd Cir., 2017)

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