When someone is accused of workplace harassment, who do we believe? We suspect that one of our employees harassed another, but we only have their conflicting stories to go on—no witnesses, video, or emails. The accuser’s account of the incident seems much more credible than that of the accused. Can we discipline with only this information?
Answer from Monica, SPHR, SHRM-CP:
Probably. It would be a good idea to consider whether your investigation was thorough. If it was, and all you have to go on is the testimony of the accuser and the accused, then you should take their credibility into consideration and make a determination based on their respective accounts.
Here are some factors to consider when determining credibility:
- Each employee’s reputation for truthfulness and accuracy
- If the story each employee presents is plausible
- Whether one of the employees has a motive to be untruthful
- Whether one employee’s statements regarding the incident are more detailed and consistent
While disciplining an accused employee who did nothing wrong would be unfortunate, it wouldn’t be illegal. As in all cases of alleged workplace harassment, it’s best to have documentation of the allegations, the steps of your investigation, your conclusions, and any disciplinary actions you took.
Monica has held roles as an HR Generalist and Payroll and Benefits manager at a large ski resort, providing HR guidance to more than 500 employees. She also has HR experience in the healthcare field and the non-profit world. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Linfield College.