Can one be threatened to be fired for sexual harassment when the employer will not tell you what you may have done or how you may have offended someone?

I was called into the office yesterday. My Dept. Mgr. and Personnel Mgr. had me sit down where a paper was turned upside down. I was informed that I was accused of sexual harassing someone. They turned the paper over and had me sign a ‘final Warning’ form. I was never given any idea of anyone customer or employee being upset with me. I had never had a man or woman tell me to stop any unwanted attention. Can an employee do a trial without jury on an employee by just listening to one persons side? I was never called to give an explanation or challenge any accusations. What is the difference in ‘Sexual Harassment’ and ‘He said, She said’? Is it proper to threaten an employee’s character and employment by directly hearing a person’s claim without investigating and properly giving the accused a chance to understand what they may have done, to whom or how? How do I go back to work feeling safe around anyone I am unknown to have a problem with me.

Asked on September 8, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Does this threatened termination violate the terms of any existing employment contract? Is there a union/collective bargaining agreement that prohibits this action? Does your treatment constitute some form of legally actionable discrimination? If not, then you as an "at will" employee, you can have be discharged for this reason, any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. The fact is that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. This includes firing (or threatening to fire) a worker for allegations that may or may not be true.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no "due process"--no guaranty of a fair hearing or trial or treatment--at work, unless and only if you have a written employment (including union or collective bargaining) agreement guarantying this to you. Otherwise, an employer can listen to just one employee's side of things and discipline, up to and including termination, if they chose, you for it, without any evidence or giving you a chance to tell your side of things or even to know who accused you. Essentially, the only rights you have at work are any contained in a written contract; otherwise, you have no rights, and your employer can do as it sees fit with your job, because without a contract, you are an "employee at will."


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