Is it legal for an employer to give out to an accussed employeethe names/written statements of co-workers regarding sexual harrassment claims?

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Is it legal for an employer to give out to an accussed employeethe names/written statements of co-workers regarding sexual harrassment claims?

An employee in management was fired for sexual harassment allegations. Per instructions from our insurance company all employees were interviewed and gave written statements with half of the employees, mostly female, but some male about sexual harassment. The accused was then brought into the office and read all of the statements (that employees thought they were just giving to management) and given their names. Is this legal for the employer to do. Now all of the employees feel like they have been “hung out to dry” with the accused, whom the GM still socializes with.

Asked on October 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If there was no agreement or representation (promise) made prior to the interviews, that either their contents or the identity of the people giving them would be kept confidential, then yes, it is legal--unprofessional and improper, but illegal. While the law prevents job-action retaliation (e.g. firing, demotion, etc.) against anyone making a complaint about sexual harassment, the law does not prevent disclosure of the fact of making, or substance of, any complaints or statements made to management. Should there later be some adverse job action--anything that could fall under the heading of "retaliation"--against those whose statements were read, then in that case, there may be legal cause of action and the affected employee(s) should consult with an employment attorney.


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