Harassment is a type of employment discrimination. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment refers to any unwelcome workplace conduct based on a protected class, such as race, religion, sex, gender, disability, age, or national origin. Examples of harassment include offensive conduct, spreading rumors, verbal abuse, and telling sexual jokes; however, a person can construe many different things as harassment. The penalties for harassment in Pennsylvania include a misdemeanor charge, potential jail time, and hefty fines. Speak to a a local criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania to see what your options are and how you might deal with this accusation.
Do Not Contact or Approach the Alleged Victim
National harassment and discrimination laws require employers and Human Resources (HR) departments to keep the identities of alleged victims anonymous. If you believe you know who submitted the allegations, however, keep your distance from that person. Do not attempt to contact the person in any way. Following, watching, talking to, emailing, calling, or approaching the alleged victim could make the case against you worse, and even lead to additional charges, such as stalking. Instead, keep your distance while you take other steps to protect your rights.
Documentation is key in a workplace harassment case. The alleged victim will need documentation against you, such as a history of HR complaints against you or hard copies of digital communications that allegedly breach the company’s harassment policies, to win his or her case. Conversely, you as the defendant will need documentation to combat the person’s claims. Find out as much as you can about the alleged incident, through outlets other than contacting the person who reported you.
Write down, in detail, any incidents you believe could have led to someone accusing you of harassment. If any hard evidence of these incidents is available, collect and save it. This could include voicemails, emails, text messages, or recordings of work meetings. Create a folder with all evidence surrounding your case. Take all the evidence you have collected to an attorney for review during your initial case evaluation.
Remain Calm and Cooperative
Harassment cases can involve your reputation in the office as much as hard evidence – especially if no eyewitnesses saw the alleged incident and the case rests solely on the other person’s word against yours. Do not hurt your case by showing inappropriate emotions at work such as rage or frustration. Do not yell at the alleged victim or otherwise retaliate. Instead, remain calm and cooperate with the investigation. Your employer will have to investigate the harassment claim, typically through an HR representative. You have the right to hire an attorney to help you through the investigative process, if desired.
If your employer cannot resolve the issue, the alleged victim may take his or her case to the EEOC for further review. The EEOC may send an agent to your workplace to sit through mediation efforts or investigate the situation. Cooperate with the EEOC agent, and explain that you wish to hire an attorney before mediation attempts. Do not admit fault for harassment to anyone in your workplace or anyone working for the EEOC.
Hire a Defense Attorney
A harassment conviction in Pennsylvania could damage your reputation, cause you to lose your job, and come with criminal consequences as well. It is critical to hire a defense attorney if you are facing false harassment accusations at work. Employers and federal agencies take these allegations very seriously, and so should you. Contact an attorney as soon as you hear of the claim against you. Then, do not answer any questions about your case until you have your attorney present.
Hiring a lawyer before or after investigators does not deem you guilty of harassment. Before could prevent this negative outcome, while after can still give you the chance to combat a false claim and restore your good name. Do not let defamation ruin your reputation, hurt your career, or destroy your family. Talk to an attorney about your case as soon as you can.