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Can a sexual harassment investigation be kept from the employees?

Los Angeles, CA |
Filed under: Sexual harassment

There's a rumor going around the office that there is a sexual harassment investigation happening, however no one knows who it is about. Can our company keep this information from us? Do I have the right to know if this investigation is about me?

Attorney Answers 4


There is no prohibition that I am aware of that an employer must tell all employees or the target of the investigation that they are investigating an allegation of misconduct. You should consult your employee handbook and I would suggest that you contact an employment law attorney in your location if you feel that you may be the target of this investigation.

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Yes, it can be kept from the employees.

J Charles Ferrari Eng & Nishimura 213.622.2255 The statement above is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice, as not all the facts are known. You should retain an attorney to review all the facts specific to your case in order to receive advise specific to your case. The statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship. Answers on Avvo can only be general ones, as specific answers would require knowledge of all the facts. As such, they may or may not apply to the question.

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You have no rights to information about any pending investigation by your employer. That is true even if you are the target and it is also true if you are the complainant (who caused the investigation) or just a potential witness. And it will still be true when the investigation is concluded and if a result is implemented.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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If you are the subject of the investigation, the employer must ensure that you have a meaningful opportunity to tell your side of the story. Otherwise, the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation may be perceived as suspect (and you may have legal recourse if there's an adverse employment action taken against you as a result). If you are not a subject (and not a potential witness with first-hand information regarding the reported allegations), then you generally have no legal basis to know what is going on. (Although there may an instance in which the subject of the investigation's mere presence in the workplace poses a threat to other employees--perhaps because this person has sexually assaulted certain employees and this has been substantiated by video surveillance. In this case, the employer may have a legal duty to warn you and / or--more likely--to remove the offending individual from the workplace.) Aside from the above, you should know that employers conducting workplace investigations try to maintain the confidentiality of reported allegations as best as they can (by disclosing information on a need-to-know basis only); this is to ensure the investigations are effective, credible.

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