You have been dedicating yourself to your company for years. You have been working hard, proved yourself and your efforts weren’t wasted. You have been promoted multiple times and now you are manager holding an executive/supervisory position. You are happy and proud of your achievement and are excited about the authority you will have at your company to make bigger and more critical decisions about the financial, administrative or a marketing direction that you company will be moving in.
But not everyone is as happy as you are. You former co-workers, or your new subordinates might become jealous and bitter about your success especially if their work ethic doesn’t match yours and/or if they feel that they should have been promoted and not you. There is a chance that they will conspire against you and will try to hurt your career by falsely accusing you of misconduct, harassment or even violence at workplace.
You feel upset, especially if those allegations are unfounded and if they are likely to slow down your further promotion in the company. How should you handle a situation in which your superior or a human resources manager contacts you out of the blue, informing you that an investigation has been initiated against you into certain allegations filed by your co-workers or subordinates?
Here are a few important steps that you can and should take when an investigation is initiated against you by your employer:
1. Do not be upset at anyone! Don’t get angry or emotional, as it will only confirm your likelihood to be hot-headed, which is the last thing you want to show to anyone. Do not be angry at your company, and remember that your company has an affirmative obligation to conduct a full, thorough and unbiased investigation of any allegations of harassment, violence or other misconduct at workplace, whether these accusation are credible and truthful or not. So, remember – your company is just doing what it’s supposed to do. Don’t threaten anyone with legal action and don’t ruin the good relationships you with the company by being angry or demanding toward your superiors.
2. Request your personnel file to review all the documents and make sure that there are no other documents filed in there, which you are not aware of, and which might case negative light on who you are as an employee. Under California labor code, you have a right to access your personnel file and obtain at least those documents that you have signed.
3. Request a copy of an investigation report with all its findings and conclusions. Review the report carefully and submit your rebuttal to the investigation report, in which you will specifically address every allegation and deny those accusations which are not true. Failing to do so, while not critical, might create an impression that you agreed with the accusations.
4. Keep a copy of every e-mail and other communications regarding the discussions of the accusations against you between you and any other employees or investigators.
5. Consult your employee handbook to make sure that the company complies with its own policies in conducting investigation and that it follows its own progressive discipline policy (if any).
6. Focus on avoiding having any communication with the accusers, if you know who they are or you believe you know who they are. It’s much easier for them to misinterpret your words than to argue that you had a conversation with them, if in fact you haven’t.
7. Consider requesting supplemental/new investigation that will consider newly discovered facts and circumstances.
8. Avoid the temptation to retaliate against the employees who falsely accused you of misconduct.
The above tips should help you deal with false accusations, clear up your name and move forward with your work and career in a healthy, productive way.