Social media’s #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment and other forms of sexual abuse into the spotlight. In many ways, the movement has empowered people to tell their stories, stand up for their rights and say, “no more.” However, there is another side to a claim of sexual harassment – the side of the person being accused. While many harassment claims are valid, and it is important for California business owners to investigate and put a stop to such claims, you should also understand that some claims are false and may impact your business.

To recap the definition of sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that this is unwanted, unreciprocated behavior of a sexual nature at work that a reasonable person would find offensive. Sometimes, the behavior is pervasive, and at other times it may be subtle and difficult to recognize. Sometimes it can escalate to make your employee feel threatened, unsafe and afraid for his or her job.

There are a few reasons an employee may make a false allegation of sexual harassment against another at your company, which may include the following:

  • Your employee misunderstood the behavior or intentions of the accused employee – for example, the employee thought he or she was innocently flirting, but did not mean to cause offense.
  • An employee considered another to be competition for a promotion, and he made up a harassment story to discredit him or her.
  • Two employees ended a dating relationship, and one accused the other of sexual harassment to avenge the breakup.

If you suspect a sexual harassment claim is false, your best choice will usually be to follow your company’s sexual harassment policy and continue with the investigation. This may protect your company, as well as the innocent party, from the negative publicity and consequences that surround a sexual harassment accusation.