It is not unlikely for employees to have their words and/or conduct to be misinterpreted by their co-workers and have their colleague accuse them of sexual harassment without sufficient reason. An employer has a duty to investigation all sexual harassment allegations. Failure to do so may subject the employer to liability for both sexual harassment and failure to prevent sexual harassment. However, employee accused of harassing often feel helpless and without remedy to prove their innocence.
An employee who is falsely accused of sexual harassment is not without remedy however. That employee is also entitled to a prompt, thorough investigation of the facts and evidence of any alleged harassment. If the employer fails to conduct thorough investigation and instead summarily terminates a worker, he / she may have a defamation claim against the employer. Generally, false complaints of harassment and discrimination are conditionally privileged and do not constitute defamation, unless those accusation are made with malice. To show malice on the part of the accuser, the accused may be able to show whether the accuser had a history personal issues/hostility toward the accused, a pattern of unfounded complaints against co-workers, or any other ulterior, personal motive against the accused. If malice is shown, the liability for defamation of character may be attached to both the employer and employee personally.
If you believe that you have been a victim of defamation at workplace, contact Arkady Itkin – San Francisco employment lawyer to discuss your claims.