Workplace gossip can be fleeting and harmless, but certain kinds of gossip can harm your reputation and your career. Your company will take seriously any gossip that implies you've done something wrong at work. Employers must investigate accusations of misconduct such as theft, harassment and discrimination even if they believe the accusations are false. If you've been falsely accused of something at work, proceed with caution.
Document Every Detail
As soon as your employer accuses you of a misdeed, start documenting what you know about the situation. If your employer disciplines or fires you, documentation will help you and your lawyer assess whether you have a legal cause of action against your employer. Write down everything you remember about any incident alleged to have taken place. Search your email and calendar for any information that corroborates your recollection.
The Investigation Process
Your employer's representatives will interview you as part of the investigation. Cooperate with the investigation. The questions the investigator asks you may give you a better idea of the evidence against you. Remain calm during the investigation process, both during your meetings with investigators and during your work hours. Do not discuss the investigation with your coworkers.
It is never a good idea to retaliate against someone who falsely accused you of something at work. If you know who your accuser is, be careful not to do anything that could be perceived as a retaliatory move. Maintain a professional demeanor at all times. If your coworkers treat you differently than usual, make a note of their behavior.
A Possible Resolution
Ask your employer when the investigation will be concluded, and express your willingness to cooperate further if needed. Eventually, the employer will complete the investigation. If there is no corroborating evidence of your misconduct, the investigator may find that the results are inconclusive. If your employer finds you guilty of the accusations, you may be disciplined or fired. Disciplinary action may include a reprimand, warning, suspension, move to a different work shift or building, demotion or special training, such as sexual harassment training.
False accusations can have a lasting impact on your reputation. Even if you keep your job, you may wish to consult with a lawyer about pursuing a defamation claim. Defamation is communication of a false statement that injures your reputation or deters others from associating with you. If you lose your job because of the false accusations, you should consult an attorney regarding possible legal action you can take.
Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.