If an employee is accused of sexual harassment, he or she may be terminated. The accused may be terminated at the employer's discretion even if the offense is minor or the proof is insubstantial. State and federal laws offer limited rights to accused harassers. It's a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you were terminated due to a sexual harassment charge.
Why sexual harassment termination happens
Federal and state laws make employers, rather than individuals, liable for sexual harassment in the workplace. Once an employee reports sexual harassment, the employer is required to take prompt and effective action. Since employers may face an expensive lawsuit if it's shown little or no action was taken, employers may terminate an accused harasser to protect themselves.
An employer's sexual harassment policy may define when termination will occur. Generally, the disciplinary action is in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. However, employers with a zero-tolerance policy may terminate an accused harasser even if the specific behavior wasn't against the law.
If you were subject to sexual harassment termination
Your employer is required to do a thorough and impartial investigation on a report of sexual harassment. You have a right to respond to the accusation and know who your accuser was. Any information should be kept confidential and only shared on a need-to-know basis.
It's important to talk to an experienced lawyer if you believe you were wrongfully terminated due to a sexual harassment charge. Several court cases have ruled in favor of an accused harasser if the employer was shown to use the charge as a pretext to get rid of an employee. A lawyer can inform you of your rights and help you understand your choices if you choose to go to court.