False Allegations of Sexual Harassment: Misunderstandings and Realities

proof

Since sexual harassment can be in the eye of the beholder, only evidence that meets civil standards of proof, argues a university complaints investigator, can fairly decide what happened.

Why is there a great concern about false allegations of sexual harassment (or other forms of harassment) when few formal complaint investigations result in findings of false allegations? Simply put, the stakes are high. There may be negative impacts on career and reputation. Potential job loss or discipline is a reality. The stress, time, effort, frustration, and financial cost take a toll on the parties. Establishing the basis for a complaint, or defending against allegations,
particularly if this entails proving a negative—that something did not happen when it is alleged it did—is often a difficult and lengthy process. The embarrassment and emotions attached to allegations and evidence can undermine even the strongest individual.

As an investigator of hundreds of complaints I have seen much confusion and many misconceptions about false allegations. Using illustrations from university settings and popular culture, this article explains and clarifies what is and is not a false allegation, contrasts false allegations with allegations that are not proven (not substantiated) following an investigation, and discusses some important considerations when dealing with allegations of sexual harassment.

Don’t think of allegations as being “true” or “false”

It is simplistic and unhelpful to frame allegations as “true” or “false”. Doing so leads to confusion and misunderstandings. Here’s why. An allegation is a statement of belief that some wrong or harm has occurred. For example, a student alleges that a professor has sexually harassed her; she believes the professor has crossed the line into behaviour that is illegal, contravenes the university’s policies, is unacceptable, and harms her (her learning, her grade in the course, her completion of the course, academic references, her comfort level with the faculty member, her academic or personal reputation, etc.).

Allegations of sexual harassment (or, indeed, of other types of harassment, such as racial harassment, bullying, homophobia, or psychological harassment) will—following a fact-finding investigation—either have merit or not. Merit is determined through a proper investigation: a fact-finding process aimed at clarifying and assessing the issues raised by the allegations. Complaints investigators do this by gathering evidence relevant to the allegations and assessing this evidence against established standards of what constitutes sexual harassment. These standards have evolved over the years through decisions of courts, human rights administrative tribunals, and arbitrators, and are informed by research and policy development. Credibility of the parties is also assessed.

If the allegation has merit it will be substantiated by the evidence. If it does not, it will not be substantiated. In a few instances, a determination of “unable to substantiate” may apply, if the investigation has not been able to find evidence persuasive either way, often the result of a lack of any evidence (direct or similar fact) which might shed light on the matter.

true or false?What is a “false allegation”?

In sexual harassment investigations, a false allegation is one the complainant brings knowing that what is alleged did not occur and, therefore, could not constitute sexual harassment. Malice may or may not exist. Generally, we consider fabrications to be false allegations.

However, be careful not to define lying as a false allegation. While popular discourse may equate false allegations with lies, not all lies are false allegations. For example, a complainant may not disclose relevant facts owing to shame, embarrassment, fear, mental illness, or simple mistake. While this may undermine the complainant’s credibility, it does not in itself make the allegation a fabrication. For example, let us say a complainant (an administrative staff member) does not disclose the fact that he engaged in kissing and sexual behaviour with the alleged harasser (a professor) or that such behaviour was consensual in the early days of their intimate relationship. However, this “lie” (lack of full disclosure) does not necessarily mean his allegations of subsequent sexual harassment by the faculty member are false.

The aim of an investigation

A proper investigation ensures that the fact-finding process—including the identification, gathering and assessment of evidence—is fair, objective, and thorough. It answers two questions: Did it (what is alleged) occur? And if it did, what is the significance of it? In other words, is it sexual harassment?

A superficial understanding of harassment is inadequate, and a superficial analysis based merely on the complainant’s prima facie case, or focussing on subjective impressions, is insufficient. The totality of the evidence must be assessed to determine whether specific behaviours constituted sexual harassment—or something else, such as interpersonal conflict, miscommunication, unprofessional behaviour, or potential criminal behaviour, such as sexual assault or criminal harassment (stalking). An evidence-based process is fundamental to a careful, objective, and thorough analysis using the required “balance of probabilities” that is the civil standard of proof.

Not proven (not substantiated) does not mean a false allegation

An investigation may conclude that allegations are unsubstantiated by the evidence for any number of reasons, none of which relate to fabrication or false allegations. For example, Faculty Member A may allege sexual harassment by Faculty Member B. The allegation is not proven. Person A may misunderstand what is defined as sexual harassment; for example, the jokes told or the comments made by B are inappropriate but do not constitute sexual harassment. Person A may not have accurately identified who made the comments; therefore, the allegation made about Person B is not substantiated. Person A may not have accurately or completely identified the comments or the context in which the comments were made. Or, the comments were made, but the evidence shows that the conduct was mutual, and Person B could not reasonably know her or his comments were unwelcome. Or, a single event is complained of—Person B shows Person A a YouTube video of women swimming naked—yet the investigation concludes that this single event is not sufficiently severe (or, perhaps, sexual) to be considered sexual harassment. Keep in mind that any of these examples may indicate that inappropriate or unprofessional conduct occurred, but it does not fit the definition of sexual harassment.

Don’t assume a complainant’s prima facie case is sufficient proof of harassment

Essentially, a prima facie case of sexual harassment exists when a complainant’s allegations, on the face of it, appear to have all the elements of sexual harassment. While the onus is first on the complainant to make out a prima facie case (before the onus shifts to the alleged harasser to respond to the allegations), the prima facie case does not in itself create proof of substantiation.

As noted earlier, whether the complaint has merit will be determined through a fact-finding process. Too often people quickly and inappropriately rush to judgment, declaring harassment exists before the facts are known, the evidence is assessed, and a proper determination is made. The college-based play Oleanna illustrates this. Indeed, David Mamet’s controversial play is sometimes referred to as a he-said-she-said sexual harassment story. It is also considered to be a play about false accusations of sexual harassment.

lawWritten in the early 1990s and still performed today, Oleanna prompts us to interpret the dialogue, tone and body language of John, a professor in his mid-forties, and Carol, his student. Over three provocative acts, the play may enrage audience members as they empathize with either character, or both, or neither. Or, it may challenge us to unpack an unhealthy brew of sexual harassment (or inappropriate behaviour? or rape?), unclear communication, partisan perceptions, and strong emotions, as well as issues of power, gender, class, and age. We struggle with what appears to be the male (and professorial?) privilege of John and the awakening feminist (and mob?) analysis by Carol.

But is it sexual harassment? Are these false allegations? As an investigator I am intrigued and frustrated by the play. It presents prima facie evidence of “something”—possibly of sexual harassment, maybe of assault, probably of abuse of power (by the professor? the student? the tenure committee?), certainly of unclear communication and mixed (misguided? malicious?) motives. As theatre it is enormously effective, as it places us in the role of judge and jury but without the benefit of fact-finding and analysis. We overlay our own subjective impressions on those of the prime characters. As an attempt to discover the truth and deliver fairness, justice, or equity it fails miserably—and that may be why it makes good theatre.

The power—and Achilles heel—of subjective impressions

Over the years, labour arbitrators have cautioned against using subjective impressions to decide the merit of workplace grievances of harassment. They have emphasized that objective standards, not solely the subjective impressions of the alleged victim or alleged harasser, must be applied in determining whether harassment or abuse has occurred. A famous photograph illustrates this; conduct occurred, but does it constitute sexual harassment?

American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin is one of the best-known street photographs. Taken in 1951 in Florence, Italy, the photo shows a woman walking along a sidewalk while men look at her. My description is carefully worded. I could have said “young woman” or “girl,” a “gauntlet of gawking men” (as some have said), or “ogled by 15 men,” or “hassled” or “harassed.” I could describe the body language of the woman, the look on her face, or that of the men, especially the man sitting on a motorcycle and another man with pursed lips who has his hand near (on?) his crotch. The latter has been described by some as “grabbing his junk” or “that not-so-innocent-looking gesture with his hand.” Some describe the men as “leering and lascivious,” the woman representing “either stoic independence or sheer vulnerability.”

In interviews this year, on the 60th anniversary exhibition of this iconic photograph and other works by Orkin, Nina Craig, who is the subject of American Girl in Italy, says, “Some people want to use it [the photo] as a symbol of harassment of women, but that’s what we’ve been fighting all these years. It’s not a symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!” Craig describes the street behaviour of the men (in the photo, in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe) as making her feel “appreciated.” And what of the gesture by the man in the photo? Craig explains her experience and interpretation of his behaviour and of the other men this way: “That young man is not whistling, by the way; he’s making a happy, yelping sound, and where you see him touching the family jewels, or indicating them, with his hand—well, for a long time that was considered an image people should not look at. That part was airbrushed out for years… But none of those men crossed the line at all.” Were the men harassing her? “I can tell you that it wasn’t the intent of any man there to harass me.”

Are “facts” socially constructed?

For her part, Orkin says “Being a photographer is making people look at what I want them to look at.” What do you see when you look at her striking photo? How are we to “factually” interpret the experience of the woman in American Girl in Italy and the behaviour of the men? Craig does not allege harassment. Others who witness the behaviour or who experience similar treatment by men might do so. Which version do we believe? (Note that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that if only some women, and not all women, are victims of sexual harassment, it does not mean the conduct is not sex discrimination.)

The law and case law also tell us we need to consider what is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome comment or conduct, and what might constitute sexual harassment. What would a reasonable person, in 1951, conclude? In 2011? In Italy versus Canada? What would a similarly situated reasonable woman conclude?

I recall a young, second-generation Asian student I interviewed many years ago. Another student had brought a complaint against a professor alleging sexist, homophobic, and racist behaviour and the creation of a poisoned environment. This witness recounted several examples of classroom comments that struck me as being potentially racist (as well as sexist, and some as homophobic). I asked if she considered the professor’s behaviour to be racist. “No,” she replied, “it’s inappropriate—he shouldn’t be saying these things. It’s not good.” I probed, wanting to understand her interpretation. She looked at me (an older, white woman) as though to say, “You don’t get it” and then patiently explained, “This is my daily experience. I am a young Korean woman. If I called this racism and sexism, I wouldn’t be able to get through my day. I don’t have time to do this. I have to live my life.” The effect of this professor’s behaviour was one thread in the rich and sometimes painful tapestry of this woman’s life.

What can we learn from such examples? As teachers and colleagues we can minimize the possibility that our behaviour may cause harm or be interpreted as harassment by being mindful of the value of being respectful, reasonable, and empathetic in our interactions with others.

Catherine Burr is a conflict and investigation specialist. She has more than 30 years’ experience investigating workplace sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and workplace violence complaints. She teaches human resources management in the Masters of Public Administration program at The University of Western Ontario.

71 Responses to “False Allegations of Sexual Harassment: Misunderstandings and Realities”

  •  by Jim Townsend

    It’s too bad there wasn’t a way to prevent the courts from engaging in abuse of process. With the advantage of a new criminal harassment law in 1994 it was easy for a lawyer to use his fellow officers of the court to swindle his victim in order to satisfy his mentally sick obsession for control of his victim’s rights to use thelawyer’s property. All that was necessary to get a court order that gave him powerover his victim was and to give his victim a criminal record was to get his wife to fabricate a story that his victim tried to kill his his wife and baby with a car. The court had no evidence that the story was true and and all it took for a conviction was the accusation alone. The end result? The lawyer’s victim lost everything he owned including his right to access his wife’s home and their nest egg for retirement of more than $100.00 by far. My concern now that I have nothing more than an old age pension which is supplemented by the province is that it’s too easy for Judges to use the Criminal Harassment law to accomplish their own will and assist theior fellow officers of the court to swindle good people.
    - Jim Townsend -

    Reply
    •  by smiley

      Officers of the court do not “swindle” people.

      Read up on your legal philosophy…

      Reply
      •  by Dick R.

        Smiley wrote:

        >Officers of the court do not “swindle” people.

        What is your reference for this juicy tidbit of knowledge? The Easter Bunny?

        >Read up on your legal philosophy…

        Don’t you mean ‘legal theology’? An illiterate such as yourself should not aspire to multisyllabic vocabulary.

        :)

        Reply
  •  by Mr. X

    Hi Catherine,

    I was about to finish my PhD when I was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a female undergraduate student out of vengeance for an innocuous comment I made that upset her. Upon hearing of the complaint, the university I was attending asked the female student to file a written complaint, which the female student filed two weeks later. In the written complaint the female student fabricated statements that I never said in order to justify her lie. The university undertook a 5-month long investigation involving 19 witnesses (we were never alone in the office). Not a single witness corroborated the female student’s claims of sexual harassment (since they never happened). However, despite the witness evidence, the university decided to believe the female student, terminated my funded research position and banned me from the university. Although they found no evidence of sexual harassment, the university claimed some witnesses said that “inappropriate” comments had been made in our office, although the witnesses didn’t say what those comments were or even if the female student had been present when they were said. I lost everything; all the work I had put into my degree, my hopes and dreams, my friends and colleagues, my job, my healthcare, my home. I read your article and was wondering if there’s an independent arbitrator (like yourself) that could examine the investigation carried out by the university and find out what went wrong. Thank you for your advice.

    Mr. X

    Reply
    •  by Chad

      Iowa State University did the same to me. I wasn’t even allowed to view the complaints because on “privacy” grounds. Warren Madden, Diane Stahle, and Jordan Esbrook all could have just done the competent thing and allow me to defend myself on the original source allegations. Instead they just harassed me on innuendo of what was contained the the reports that I still to this day have not seen; and I am probably going to have to take them to court over it.

      If you were at a public university I would be happy to show you how to use the public records law to nail the public employees who screwed you over. Also, you can sue the other student and anyone who assisted her for false complaint harassment to recover your loss of educational services.

      Reply
      •  by torrin

        Chad, I am finding myself in a very similar situation. You stated “If you were at a public university I would be happy to show you how to use the public records law to nail the public employees who screwed you over. Also, you can sue the other student and anyone who assisted her for false complaint harassment to recover your loss of educational services.”

        I would like to know details in regards to public records law that you used and how I may be able to use it myself.

        Thanks

        Reply
      •  by Mr. X

        Hi Chad,

        I’m sorry about what happened to you, for me it has been devastating, thanks for responding, it helps. Anyone reading this thread needs to realize that false accusations, although though not common, undermine genuine claims and can be worse than being sexually harassed for the victim. I was subjected to a hostile work environment because of the false allegations and investigation, I lost my job, my friends, my home, my reputation was ruined, I lost months of my life trying to fight the allegations and get justice and I have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs on no income. I filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC against the university, but who knows if and when that will lead to anything. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights informed me they would take up the complaint if I did not get a resolution, but that could take years. I filed a civil suit against the female student who made the false allegations, but it is going to cost me a fortune. Not to mention the onus is on me to prove she lied, which is not easy even with the large amount of witness evidence I have gathered. Please let me know what has worked for you and good luck getting justice, if you need any advice, I would be more than happy to respond.

        Reply
        •  by Vids

          Hi, I am facing a similar situation,
          My son has been falsely accused by his past girlfriend just to get even with him.
          The college(a private) believed her as her parents are big donors and expelled my son who was on financial aid from the college when he was just 1 semester away from graduating.He is an international student on F1 visa and now his life is ruined.
          Please advise if we should take legal action and will Department of Education Office for Civil Rights be able to help us.

          Reply
          •  by Mr. X

            Dear Vids,

            If your son is indeed innocent, there may be long-term career and psychological repercussions for your son if you don’t at least attempt to clear his name. In such a case, I would highly reocmmend filing a discrimination complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). It will cost you nothing, but you should do this immediately as there are statutes of limitations. For publicly funded institutions (no matter how small the public funding is), you have 180 days to file a claim, after which those institutions have immunity from prosecution. The EEOC doesn’t accept being falsely accused as a defense. However, if evidence suggests that your son was discriminated against due to a protected category (age, sex, national origin, or religious belief) because they chose to believe the female student, then you have a viable claim. Bear in mind that the EEOC has a strong bias towards protecting women who are accused of sexual harassment by men, but they have protected men in certain cases. The EEOC complaint procedure is extremely slow and can take years, if anything happens at all, so you have to be diligent.

            Your other options are costly, but include filing a civil suit against his former girlfriend for deliberate interference with his contractual obligations, slander, and defamation (1 year statute for defamation, depending on the state). Your son has limited recourse against the university, but they also can be sued under those categories (180 day limit to file a suit, depending on the state). In either case you should hire an attorney that specializes in emplyment law and gather as much evidence as possible, including witness statements.

            Hope that helps, it’s worth fighting for justice, good luck!

        •  by Shaila Shahid

          Although I am already one year late to this conversation but I could not restrained myself to share my story. In fact a completely false allegation of sexual harassment raised against my husband by the maid of my parents home. Where as there was no evidence even that maid shared a personal contact with my husband. This has happened cause me and my husband was not satisfied by the service and character of that maid. But before we raise anything she did this against us and unfortunately my brother and elder sister picked the issue against us. We were in deep shock and my family forced me to leave my husband but he is my trusted friend and well wisher since long and I am a very successful women only because of his devotion and contribution to my career growth. The situation turned like this that my only younger brother cut off relationship with me whom I love most in this world. We are passing a traumatic crisis in our life. I know my husband and even there is no rumor even about his behavior in any where. He is well known in his working environment as a very modest and good human being. I dont know what to do as this somehow ruined our mental peace and everything, our bond with family. Even we have every argument and evidence against what ever the maid raised but my family is not ready to listen to us.

          Reply
      •  by Diana

        Dear Chad, I need your help! I was wrongly accused of a “potential” harrassment in a public university. Could you help me?

        Reply
    •  by op

      I was falsely accused in similar situation. Where you ever cleared? And if so what Attorney did you use. Seeking advice to fight my case.
      Thank you

      Reply
      •  by DLC

        Courts look for conviction or resolution , NOT truth – insist on witnesses of your own, and get many and insist that all evidence is to be entered because corropt JUDGES will throw out ALL defense evidence and testimony if they have decided on convicting someone and they do not care if verdict is fair. If a JUDGE is known to be corupt , get a JURY, not JUDGE alone

        Reply
    •  by Brandon Green

      Hello

      This is part of the misandristic society in which we live at present.
      Women in western countries have WAY too much power.
      Far more than the average man. Men (including myself)
      are “sexually harassed” every day on the job, at the library
      or in public. Women especially when rejected often retaliate
      with false charges. I actually had this happen to me.
      Men in this society need to do something about this
      and just complain. MGTOW is a start.
      Brandon

      Reply
  •  by Aline

    Hi, my dad has been accused last year by my daughter for sexual harassment, which I beleive my dad is innoncent. My daughter is looking for a revange towards me, the mother, her father past away, and she wants so money from his will, long story, but she is going after my father to punish me, I beleive so. A year later the crown of attorney does not want to drop the charges, my daughter works for childrens aid, she knows the trick and how to talk in court, she is a strong person, but I believe she is bipolar, or another mental health. My dad is 76 yrs old with a heart problem, big headaches due to an accident, he has to go for nerve blocks injection in his head every 2 months. This situation is killing him, and killing my mom, and is taking all there old age savings away. Is there any law in Ontario that for an old age and health condition , that they have, I am afraid this will kill my dad, or he might have a heart attack.

    Reply
    •  by DmcG

      I would be willing to help you just because I have seen several cases like yours before. However, I would need more detail as to the circumstances that link your daughter, late husband, and father – not to mention the specifics of the claim itself.

      Reply
    •  by AA

      False Allegations are cruel and put many individuals lives in a panic. It is a terrifying experience. What is usually meant to target one individual ends up targeting larger numbers like a grenade does when it is thrown at a house. That is the nature of false allegations. Once someone makes a claim, it is investigated and often goes to court. This process costs the “accused” and their families hundreds and often into the thousands of dollars. Once it is in the courts, the Lawyers are merely officers of the court so the defense for a falsely accused person is subject to what is good for the court. The main thing the accused person trapped in such a mess should do is to remain calm but defend their innocence righteously. It is a shame that the courts are not punishing those known to be accusing falsely because this is putting many people at risk. It is a huge miscarriage of Justice to all around, including those individuals who really WERE abused, oppressed,harassed or treated unjustly but sadly, a high percentage of cases within the wide spectrum under the category of “sexual harassment, abuse, violence” are actually false and should never even go to Court. The public needs education on these matters. They are too prone to blindly believe any statements attached to abuse because we have all been conditioned (some trained) to react strongly to any type of violence, even “stories”

      Reply
      •  by Ravi Verma

        I agree with the statement i have been punished in such fabricated falls allegations which are designed by some inhuman incompetent females who conspired against me to treat me a lesson to take revenge this is only because i was seriously involve in my official assignments which was getting hampered by one particular female employee who was not at all serious in her job one day my KPI (my goal sheet) got damaged by her careless attitude for which i had very hot discussion with her & in this matter next day she used email id & password of an other female employee & wrote a mail of sexual harassment against me that girl whose email id & password was used she met me & informed me about all the conspiracy & confessed with me she never wrote any mail against me her email id & password was used by other female(the real culprit) who wanted to take revenge form me she also said now if she take the allegations back she will be trapped coz she has been compelled to not tell the truth to the HR dept.otherwise 5 people will loose their job including her own, unfortunately HR people who are conditioned did not try to investigate about the fabricated falls allegations & did not bothered to understand to pain mental condition & about the family of the victim they finished my career by taking decision against me now i am under tremendous mental trauma i dont know what to do where to go i am looking for some good lawyer who can fight for truth & can help me to provide justice.

        Reply
    •  by abc

      Hi my wife complain me regarding my father behavior to her,also she told me that your father trying to sleep with me and kiss me when she and my father was travelling from one city to another city.what i has to do dear,please guide me because at the time of accident my father and my wife ,the two person is present only.what i has to do?
      Wife age is 25 and father age is 57

      Reply
    •  by DLC

      My Husband was fgalsley accused too – seems there are SO many cases

      Reply
    •  by DLC

      Since your daughter works for Childrens AID, she has leverage and this is not good. Contact groups that work at EXPOSING Childrens AID http://www.blakout.ca/

      Reply
  •  by Kyle

    I work for a company in Northern Alberta Oil sands. I am a contractor for the oil company. I have a lead who works for the company that oversees me. He has a very aggressive personality, he is ex army. For the past 4 months he has been threatening my job, claiming poor job performance to his superiors etc. Every time I am called to his office I am reprimanded for the slightest things, like not answering emails quick enough. I was reprimanded for not updating him properly via email, and when it came out that he was properly emailed I was still told that I was on the edge of being let go. This is stressing me out so much my doctor recommended I take a leave. I want to file a harassment claim against my boss. I have journal entries of times when I was overly stressed due to his behavior towards me. Is this enough substantiating evidence to ensure a proper investigation? Please help if you can…Thanks!

    Reply
  •  by gal

    I am writing this having been awake all night, not sure what to do when false accusations are made re: alleged homohobic remarks? Still shocked at resulting police arrest and interview followed by court appearance in 2 weeks!!!? Accusation as result of disputed property access, absolute fabrication, desperate, don’t know what to do?? Agree with equality for all but what happens when allegations of this nature are false? Can someone please help re: advice??

    Reply
    •  by Mr. X

      I was falsely accused of sexual harassment (see thread above). I f you didn’t do this, you need to trust your integrity. Hire an attorney immediately, it will be well worth the cost. See a few attorneys if you can and take the one that seems the most reasonable (not necessarily the one that wants to help you at all costs). Try to remember all of the facts and write them down, find witnesses if you can. If you can’t find witnesses, find character witnesses. Examine the allegations against you in detail, determine aspects that don’t make any sense. Determine motive for the false accusations and why the person in question would choose to make those particular accusations – there’s a reason for everything. Good luck!

      Reply
      •  by Vids

        Dear Mr. X , Is it possible that we can talk.. I need a few details. Specially the fact on EEOC website mentions that thy don’t accept cases not related to Job. My son is a student and incident is not Job related. I need urgent help I as I am approaching 180 days deadline in a day or 2.

        Reply
        •  by Mr. X

          Hello, I can only give you advice relating to my own experiences. In my case I was employed at the School. You may want to contact the Education Department Office for Civil Rights and see if you can file a complaint with them. I filed a complaint on-line and got a response relatively quickly. If they can’t help you, you should contact an attorney that specializes in this sort of thing. Often, you can get a free consultation. If not, it may be worth it to spend $200 to get some advice. You can file a civil suit against the perpetrator and/or the University. Hope that helps.

          Reply
          •  by Vids

            Thanks Mr X..

  •  by David Cameron

    If you look at people at work who glance at you first and it makes them feel uncomfortable, could that be constitued sexual harrasment? I recognise senior management scrutinsing me at the moment and that is the only thing i can think of that is disciplinary at that level. I worry for my job.

    Nobody has approached me about this and I don’t look anywhere other than their face. Nobody has approached me informally about this and the people themselves haven’t mentioned anything. The person concerned at stared at me twice for extended periods of time and has looked at me on other occasions. I don’t know if this was sexual or aggressive. The other person glances at me as he goes past my desk and this is semi regular. I have not approached them or made any verbal hints of sex and I don’t walk up to their desks or talk to them or give them any sexual pictures etc. One of them blanks me strongly when he sees me. I went into a cupboard behind one of them and he was terrified and I felt terrible because I have not done anything intentional to make him feel that way.

    Is there any chance of getting fired under UK law for this?

    Reply
  •  by Ravi Verma

    can anyone provide me a best lawyer to fight a case against falls allegation of sexual harassment pl help

    Reply
    •  by Vids

      Hello,
      Were you able to find the lawyer.
      If yes please let me know.

      Reply
  •  by louraine

    My husband who works for a utility company, was recently sent to a house of a woman whos husband once worked for the same utility company(diff dept), but was fired due to her husband being convicted as a child molester. Due to the large company they never knew each other, therefore my husband did not know the house for which the utility company sent him to fix an appliance. The woman did tell my husband that she was in the process of suing the company for back pay(don’t know the whole back story). She had a grievance with my husbands company and proceded to accuse him of inappropriately touching her during the visit to fix her appliance. The company as a routine questioned my husband about the day at her house and preceded to tell him of her accusation. The company whole heartedly believes my husband and said that they still have to work the investigation. she refused to press charges but said she was telling the company because she “didn’t want another female to experience this from him”. The company said the accusation will be listed in his file but we feel that it should be removed if the accusation can’t be substantiated. What else can we do?

    Reply
  •  by Lizz

    My husband was just falsly accused of sexual harassment by a fellow student at his school. We cannot afford to defend against these claims, as I am a stay at home wife, and he is a full time medical student. Was…a full time medical student. He could be expelled, have to repay $80,000 in tuition, be dishonorably discharged from the Navy, and repay his $20,000 sign on bonus, in attition to roughly $15,000 in monthly stipends. All because someone has a grudge against him. I found another couple who had a problem with the same person, they’ve agreed to write letters as character witnesses in his defense….but I still don’t know what to do. We will be ruined financially, our marriage won’t survive us loosing everything and sleeping on the streets. Can someone really just make something like this up, destroy 2 lives, and have no consequences? At this point, it really just seems easier to just end it all, since from what little research I’ve come across, we will never recover from this, his reputation is ruined, and our chance at a good life together is over. I hope there is a special place in hell for people who falsely accuse others out of malace or revenge or whatever reason.

    Reply
    •  by Mr. X

      Hi Lizz,

      The same thing happened to me (see thread above), lost my job and 4 years of work towards my PhD. I filed a complaint with the EEOC that’s still ongoing. Despite intense intimidation from opposing attorneys, I filed a civil suit against the girl who falsely accused me and there’s hearing scheduled to see if it will go to trial. She’s trying to claim government immunity, but it doesn’t apply in her case. Your husband has rights as he is employed by the Navy. There are a few organizations out there that might help you, like the equal justice foundation who may be able to give you free legal advice. I hope there is a special place in hell for those people also. Good luck.

      Reply
  •  by bella donna

    after spending an enormous amount of time gathering evidence and information on this subject, i have come to the realization that i may have to represent my husband not only in civil court, but also in challenging our human rights laws regarding this issue. how is it that a law can be perverted and abused to destroy innocent people and their are no forms of accountability for the false accusers or the companies who dont follow proper procedures while investigating or firing falsely accused people. i have vowed to fight the good fight on this issue, but like most people i need assistance to do this. any professors of law, lawyers, or groups who can assist me in this battle who have not lost their zeal for the law or are as outraged as i am over this topic are welcome to contact me.. i give this site permission to release my email to them. sign me; it only takes one person to stand up and be heard!!!

    Reply
    •  by Mr. X

      Hi Bella, I wish you luck and offer my help in any way I can. I think the problem is deeper than you think and arises from fundamental shortcomings of human psychology and unfair laws. When someone says hello, or accuses someone, we believe them because most of the time people have good intentions (true). We are conditioned to assume that because this is the case most of the time, it is the case all the time. Most of us have an urge/desire to protect the weak, something we need when we have children, or to protect those that have been wronged (a good thing). We also adress issues differently in groups than as individuals, the Salem witch-trials and the Holocaust are good examples. Now, the current sexual harassment laws explicitly allow for legal penalization of institutions that fail to take action against sexual harassment (a good thing), but they have no provision (lack of foresight) for similar action against those who make false allegations. Combine these factors together and you have a recipe for abuse. The fact is that in the workplace (especially if you are female) in many cases all you have to do to ruin someone’s life is simply to accuse them of sexual harassment (especially if the accused is male). You don’t need evidence, you face no repercussions (most of the time), and the good, righteous folks at human resources will do the rest for you. Don’t count on your colleagues to help – they will be terrified with fear, and attorneys will turn the other way when you seek help.

      It’s sad that a law meant to protect people against discrimination is being used to discriminate against people. Regretably, the not-so-smart, by-the-book clerks who often wind up in human resources justify what they are doing as right, they don’t want or care to realize they could be wrong, and even if they did, they are too afraid of the consequences of an actual sexual harasser possibly getting away. They find the acused guilty, even if there’s no evidence whatsoever. They easily sell their findings to higher human resources management (same stupid clerks, but who happen to have been there longer) and together, out of their own righteousness and out of fear of a potential lawsuit from the accuser, they fire the accused.

      When I was falsely accused of sexual harassment (out of vengeance) by a co-worker, the human resources (I call them criminal resources) people embarked, with glee, on a crusade to try and find anything they could possily find to destroy me, irrespective of evidence to the contrary. My colleagues were shocked, and even though they were witnesses, they were too afraid to do anything (group behavior). There are the courts though, in which evidence is important and where witnesses are not intimidated, and sometimes people falsely accused do get justice.

      Reply
    •  by naveed

      Hi Bella,

      God bless you with you good intentions and works. Tc

      Reply
  •  by steph

    My son was in his second week as a freshman at a public university. He lived in a co-ed dorm. He attended the universities summer bridge program, in which he made many friends. He and this one female student engaged in flirtatious talk. One day they met in the dorms hallway to exchange a book. They greeted with a hug and flirting. The female student pushed my son, he chased her, she falls and he pulls on her foot. He notices her facial expression and he immediately stops the horseplay. Later, that week he’s being accused of sexual harassment. He was told by the university if he takes it to a formal hearing 95% of the time the students are expelled. He feeling confused and thought of being expelled to school his second week of school scared him and he signed an agreement and on probation. Please advise!

    Reply
    •  by Doug

      1. Get a hold of the complaint resolution policy for sexual harassment
      2. Get a lawyer and ask him to go through the policy.
      3. Follow his advice, and press for your son’s rights

      Most schools don’t handle SH claims correctly. They usually end up violating their own procedures. Which is why they told you that 95% end up in expulsion. They can destroy the accused’s life with impunity, but they can be sued if the accuser feels like she’s not being pampered.

      You might be able to fight the agreement that your son signed because it was probably made under duress.

      Basically, what’s going on is that your school is afraid of being sued by your son’s accuser for not responding to her complaint. They aren’t afraid of being sued by your son because courts have consistently failed to recognize a cause of action solely on the basis of denial of rights.

      So, with the possibility of a lawsuit from the girl, and with a very low probability of a successful lawsuit from your family, they choose to cover their own butts.

      It’s wrong. But it happens. It happens too much.

      It happened to me. If you read the other comments, you’ll see that it’s happened to plenty of others.

      If this upsets you, join the Men’s Rights Movement: http://www.avoiceformen.com/
      Maybe someday, we can get the laws changed so that an accusation isn’t it’s own conviction. Maybe someday, we can get a federal cause for action that allows the falsely accused to sue their accusers and the schools who violate their rights.

      And finally, tell your son that he didn’t do anything wrong. That’s probably the best thing you can do. Having gone through this, I know how he feels. He needs support right now.

      Reply
      •  by Mr. X

        Doug,

        That’s probably the best response I’ve seen on the internet. I think I’ll join the movement. I leave in two weeks to attend a hearing in which the person that falsely accused me is trying to prevent me from suing her by claiming that as a student she had governmental immunity from prosecution. We’re hoping to make short work of that. The dishonesty and lengths these people go to is unbelievable.

        Reply
      •  by Vids

        Doug,
        I agree with Mr X.. yours is the best response . You have put the problem in exact words.. the institutions are just too coward and want to save their Butt….

        Reply
      •  by Steve

        Doug,

        I found your statement regarding the inaptness of most HR departments to follow their own guidelines very useful. I am not a lawyer but it would seem to me that if one cannot find a lawyer to take on a harassment case because the deck is stacked against them winning, they could certainly take on a case of wrongful termination for violation of institutional procedures.

        Thank you,
        Steve

        Reply
  •  by brandon green

    Hello

    I was falsely acussed of sexual harrasment several years ago and fired for it. At this job i “harassed” everyday. Comments such as “stand there and look pretty” and “there’s nothing feminine about you” were administered daily. Then again i am a man ,not a “girl”, and have no reason to complain. I would never get a female employee in trouble for “boosting my ego”.
    That to me would be “cowardly”. Take it from me never under any circumstances date your co-workers. I blame myself for being “stupid”.
    Brandon

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  •  by brandon green

    That is “I was harassed everyday”.

    Reply
  •  by raul

    I am currently under investigation over a matter that happened over 5 years ago. Iv been suspended from work because someone said I was bragging about a sexual encounter I had with a co worker. What are my rights and can I be terminated for this

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  •  by Beth

    I was sexually harassed repeatedly by a co-worker. His wife has threatened to have me thrown in jail for false accusations. Can she do that?

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  •  by chris

    I am the Administrator at this company and I started to have a friendly relationship with a coworker, it started with texting and then lunches…..went out twice to bars and the texting continued. Invited me to Las Vegas. She is married. I had to reprimand the employee and made some changes for everyone in the office including her. She got upset because of those changes and 3 days later she claimed a sexual harassment. An internal investigation is been conducted. She continues working for the company but she was reassigned a new supervisor which is the CFO of the company. Once I was told that she had put a complaint I stopped talking to her and blocked her number from my cell. The company lawyer who is conducting the internal investigation as soon as he received the complaint he acted on and started the investigation. He requested for me and her to bring a copy of all the texts and I did provide a complete list…about 500 where there was a constant exchange of messages. I was told today that she went to the EEOC last Wednesday. I do not recall her telling me that the messages were unwelcome, I did not offered her any special favors in lieu of personal sexual favors. She continued working in the company and there has been no hostile working environment. She has been telling everyone that she had gone to the EEOC…I found this out from another employee…..Now the company has proof that she has been committing fraud and we were told we cannot do anything to her because it is considered retaliation. She is not meeting the expectations of her job description. It has been a headache where is all fun texting and flirting around when everything is going well but those same messages can comeback to bite you in the……what can I do at this point?

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  •  by vencenia

    hi i was wring fully accused of sexual harassment by a co worker now i have do write a letter how do i put in words that i didn’t not sexual harass him

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  •  by David

    I have just been accused of sexual harrasement at the workplace by an absolute lier. This is not even an ounce of truth to their claims. They say that I groped the person, tried to kiss them, made comments sexually by phone, offered them to come to my house, ask for favors in return for a job.
    It has all the hallmarks of ruining my career because this idiot has a grudge because I fired them within the guidelines of the law. They threatened media attention if we did not respond (only because we are recognized world wide and a public figure) then they went to our corporate office and threatened to go above my bosses head if we did not respond.
    My boss tells me later that he finally spoke to them for 15-20 minutes and never did tell me that these claims were out there.
    The party filed a police report and tried to press charges, they were not even pressed as Police said nothing lined up with their evidence. They were asked by my boss to put their claims in writing, they did nothing! Media, Police, Threats and no charge! But yet they can file this charge with the Human rights Tribunal, I have my own small company which represents children’s product, I stand to lose everything including my job, house, company and relationship because of this lying #$%@%@. THIS IS SO UNFAIR! I feel like the respondent above, just end it all because I worked this long to go through this??
    I cannot believe one can make these charges and I cannot do anything about it… How Human is that? I feel sorry for all of you that are going through this, I know the fear of losing everything. My company wants to go to mediated settlement meeting, why bother? I DID NOTHING! He wants money to pay for his house that he cannot afford because of his own inability to tell the truth about anything at all. WHAT A UNFAIR PROCESS

    Reply
  •  by Shelly Cragar

    Oh, and I might add, I too was harassed for many years while I worked there… The staff was 80% male.

    Reply
  •  by Beck

    My husband was accused of sexual harassment at his workplace by a co-workers cracked out girlfriend. Now the co-worker is going around trying to recruit other people to go against my husband because they are trying to “make money.” One of my husband’s other co-workers had told him she has been approached and asked if she would like to be involved. My husband has td his management team but their response was “it is out of our hands.” Corporate must decide now and I worry they do not have all of the facts. So frustrating just waiting and wondering.

    Reply
  •  by Alexandria

    I filed an offical complaint to HR with a history of many situation with an individual that was harressing me . took too long to resolve, finally they made a meeting an advisng that it is sustained -not all the situations- and indeed this indvidual caused a hostile work environment , they mentioned that they took action and will not disclose it, they want me to sign a paper, that saying it is a beleif and if true they will take action, i donot like the wording, i want them to change it for me the allegation been sustained and proved true, so we passed this part-1- is it my right to oppose to sign until they put the wording as the meeting? Also,2- Can i ask for a written doc. of my complain output.

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  •  by Candi

    Hi, My husband is in the military and he has been accused of Abusive Sexual Contact of a co-worker. The co-worker which is known as a big liar to many has claimed that he tried to grab her face and kiss her. He is facing losing a career of over 20 years, his reputation and most of all the embarrasement this has caused. The case is still in the investigative stage and we do not feel comfortable that it will be fully/properly investigated. We need to know if there is anything that we can do in regards to this allegation and against the female who has started this lie in the first place because we will have to pay extensive lawyer fees I’m sure being the climate in the military at present. People are guilty before they ever have a chance to prove that they are INNOCENT. There has got to be a better way. If anyone can help, please help asap. Thanks for all of your help!

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  •  by Janelle

    I work in a deli there are eleven females and one male well this one girl who wanted to get out of the dept cuz no one in the dept talked to her do to the way she acted tords all us wanted to leave the dept so dhe went to cover someones vacation for six weeks and got out well the moment she finds out shes comen back all of a sudden she files a harassment claim aginst me so I was pulled into the office and questioned for 45 min on how come I didn’t talk to her then I found out she had said I walked up behind her and called her a slut which is comopletly untrue then she aligated that my husband had come in to get something and he looked at me and said whats wrong my reply was why are you smiling at her do you like her because I don’t and I suopposley said that in front of coustomers all complety wrong so now she is back in the dept and I fell really uncomfortable being aroune her I was told I could have been fired so shoukd I have to work on the same shift as she does and I told my boss please don’t out me with her all its going to take is one more complabt filld so wjat are my opions

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  •  by mrjeff

    I was told I made a sexual comment to a lady at work by telling her what a nice dress. As a security guard I never make sexual comments because I know the policy but by being polite this woman made a mountain out of a mole hill. It makes me sick that you have to be so PC. She lied and she knows it but I have to take the fall because of her false allegations. What should I do? Get a lawyer? I just do not know.

    Reply
  •  by mrjeff

    Can anyone give me advise as to what to do?

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    •  by mrjeff

      Can anyone help?

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      •  by Roy

        Looks like and trust me on this if you want to keep your job then
        1 apologize and say it was made as a compliment and you realize it was inappropriate and you have learnt and will be more professional at a later date
        2 accept that for the next 1 year your work your ironed shirt your trouser crease the sine on your shoes the smile look anything will be scrutinized . Just accept it
        3 remember you have no support at work and do not discuss with anyone
        4 see your dr get counselling and try to look at it as a learning experience
        5 always remember you are there for the company and will do what they want to try and make sure this does not happen again

        Lastly and this is the most important YOU ARE INNOCENT truth is this is how to handle these things Unfortunately it is the only way you will get peace as women and narcisstic personalities will always get what they want and do not believe otherwise
        I would work very hard and change jobs citing you need a new change and your last place of work was excellent etc etc
        You see if you use he above method you will win as the girl in question even if she learns the error if her actions then her friend will take up the mantle and I wish I could be more positive but for your own sanity I will not lie to you

        And document document everything and every meeting you have for a record trust me on this too and always take a carbon copy paper and give to the person to sign and date and make sure it has what has been discussed on it. sounds anal I know but it’s for your own protection

        Finally be safe and good luck

        Reply
  •  by GS

    A few months ago, I wrote a letter to my site manager that a female co-worker had repeatedly entered our locker room while we were changing out of uniform. My manager said he would speak to her regarding it, but she has continued to do so. My co-workers are afraid to speak up because they feel she gets preferential treatment (because she is the only female who works with us).

    We had an altercation on Labor Day, and she filed a complaint against me. A co-worker saw the statement, and she has now alleged sexual harassment against me, claiming that when I have filled in as a supervisor, I “linger” in the supervisors office when she wants to change into her uniform (she changes in the officer, while the rest of us do so in our locker room). I’ve been reading up on sexual harassment, and I am now concerned I will lose my job I work in security, so if they dismiss me, I will be unable to work in this field any longer. I’ve spoken with a field supervisor for my company, and he advised me to have my union representative present when I speak with my site manager regarding the incident and any potential allegations. She has all ready lied about what happened during the incident that led to these new allegations, but I’m still concerned (especially since not much was done about my earlier allegations). I am sure my manager will be impartial investigating the allegations, but my employer might still terminate me (as our site is all ready under investigation for another incident involving other co-workers). Is there anything I can do to defend myself?

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  •  by Angel

    I am going through a false claim that I am sexually harassing a coworker. I am a female and I work very closely with his department and he claims that I am calling him pet names, massaging him and asking him out. This is completely false I do not touch anyone that I work with because I have been in this business way to long and seen things like this happen. I have noticed that this individual kisses up to all management and the manager that wrote me up is aboslutely in love with him. I do not know what to do especially since he claims that he told me to stop. I do not know how you can tell someone to stop something they never did in the first place. I have no one to talk to, and everyone at work knows so it seems like I have the scarlette letter on my chest.

    Reply
  •  by frustrated

    Hi, my son is being falsely accused of 4 counts of sexual harassment. This is a situation where there was a school wide issue of this incident going on and though my son should not have participated ( he was simply trying to fit in after being bullied for years at this school where the school refused to help him) it is being blown way out of proportion by the district attorney. Now this girl who made the accusation has blown it way out of proportion and added to what really happened in effort to facilitate her lie and make it more believable. They are saying this girl is “traumatized” yet she and her friends had no problem harassing and humiliating my son after wards and also ran into him at the park a couple of months later and felt perfectly fine staying there. If she was so traumatized wouldn’t she have left feeling uncomfortable around him? My son is being victimized by the system. Does the law stop and consider how much trauma and distress they are causing my son and our family by blowing this up to be something it isn’t and never was. Is there hope that we can get these charges dropped? My son is sick to his stomach with stress and so am I. I’m floored the DA would take the time to drag my son through the court system when there are real crimes happening. This is literally her word against his. He has never ever been in trouble by the school before this. Also when the officer interviewed him (alone at the school) my son said the officer kept trying to make him confess to things he didn’t do. Calling him a liar and badgering him to say he did it. Any suggestions on how we can help my son would be greatly appreciated. My son does not deserve this stress or to have this on his record and live with the stigma. Thanks

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    •  by Vids

      I know what you must be going through as I was in the same situation sometime back and I hope you too get past this..I just wish good for you.

      Reply
    •  by Mr. X

      Hi Frustrated,

      You’re not alone, I was (and am still) being dragged through something similar at a University. If your son is innocent, he must trust his integrity. The law (it’s one-sided), the courts, and especially the School, are all against you. School administrators love witch hunts and finding victims to protect, even if they know they are lying, and they take great joy penalizing others – they will never be on your side. The School’s actions will trap the girl further in her lie (if she is lying) and she will likely never admit she lied. You should find and hire an attorney, that will help ensure your rights are protected and you don’t make mistakes that others will feed on and use against you. You could look into interviewing witnesses who know the girl to collect evidence she is lying. You could also file discrimination complaints with the EEOC or the education department’s office for civil rights.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  •  by Dr_No

    Very Interesting read, joking about stuff can be taken as misconduct as well. Now I am really Scared. Though my colleagues welcome such acts especially sexual in nature.

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  •  by Mark

    I am currently under going an investigation for sexual harassment. My supervisor hates me an recruited female coworkers to claim I sexual harassed them. I explained to the investigators that i do not know these accusers but it is their words against mine.I immediately contacted an attorney but my employer refuses to work with my attorney. Plus I have evidence to proof that I did not and could not do what they are accusing me of. But it is three against one and I was fired. I plan to sue the accusers and my employer but I understand it is a long costly process. Any advice to help me battle three against one. The investigator wrote in their report that the accusers cried and was emotional, therefore they were more believable than me.

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  •  by Mini

    My husband just accused sexual harassment with girl working with him….i know he is innocent his manager know his innocent….god knows his innocent.
    My husband is team leader and his is keeping tell that girl to work and not just stand free.
    He keep telling his manager that he don’t need that girl in his shift because she’s not doing anything. And manager also had argue with her for not doing anything….and she did this to my husband,,,,,blamed him i know my husbands character….and i know that girl as well. Plz guide us what to do without wasting any time….we r not at all strong financially i am not working. Used to be on work cover now staying home. No one ever imagine this could happen to my innocent husband :( this is a personal grudge of that girl i want to sue her for this.

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  •  by TRRP

    This has been very enlightening. I am a faculty member at a top 20 research university, and I nearly lost family, career, life, and identity over a “hostile environment” claim. My advice…In the workplace don’t serve on any committees with women, don’t make eye contact with women, don’t speak to a woman unless you have 10 or more witnesses. Give all students A’s. We are living in scary times, and the new Montana interpretation of “hostile environment” can be anything. Never be familiar with anyone….that is hard to do when you are working 24/7. Thus, I teach my class and go home, I never give them another research dollar

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    •  by Mr. X

      I would like to hear more about the circumstances of your story. Unfortunately, I am starting to feel the same as you concerning working with women. I was suspended (indefinitely) from my academic program and my funded research position terminated just before finishing my PhD in Colorado over a false “hostile environment” claim made out of vengeance by a part-time female undergraduate student in our group (see one of the first postings above). I filed and won a civil suit against the female student and in the process subpoenaed documents from the HR department. What they did is shocking and I have a discrimination claim pending with the EEOC, but I may have to file a civil suit against the University.

      Reply
  •  by kido

    i was given the sack for ”inappropriate behavior” to female staff(s) at work. i really do not understand why the slightest suggestive remark is over blown and taken to top management level. i was interrogated as a sexual offender and the panel was digging into my private life scrutinizing my life and thoughts in all the places i’ve been. i can’t beleive people even complained about the kind of song i sing…when did the female folks get to sensitive?

    i lost my job, my home, reputation, money, career and emotionally destroyed

    if comments got me into trouble like this, how about colleagues that sleep with each openely and nobody gives a damn? is it a problem for people that guys like me are always in a happy mood and should be made miserable like them?

    Reply
  •  by moon

    Dear Sir, i am working in university as service provider , one of our company service proivder complaint about me that he saw me kissing someone ,xx this is her name , and my company after investiagtion deside to terminate me even xx said i dont have any realation with me and my statemnet was sam , my comapny just lisiten from one way and they terminate me from work , and one more important thing is that my complaintant is not in this country , he was working with us , and more then 8 months his company termiate him for internal reason , after 8 months from his country he send mail to our client against me that i was having such misconduct , and my comapny is belaving him just on his written statement which he attached , without any prooof without and witness , and my company ask our sub contracter staff about this issue some of his friends say , yeas we heard about this issue before but we did not see anything , and mention that my manager is supporitng me , beacse as he mention that he report to my manager before , can you help me what shoud i do can i go to open case in court against them , please reply me as soon as possible , kind regards. Reply – See more at: http://www.academicmatters.ca/2011/10/false-allegations-of-sexual-harassment-misunderstandings-and-realities/#sthash.jsPGJFrk.dpuf

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  •  by ZimbaZumba

    As part of my job I deal with external investigators in a Canadian University setting. It is often hard to find investigators and commonly the system ends up taking on who ever they can get. Many of the investigators are utterly appalling and should not be allowed to even to adjudicate a spat between a pair of five year olds.

    This article is trying to bring American style preponderance of evidence justice to universities. It is hotly disputed as a system in the USA and had no place here.

    Reply

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