I have been working as a software developer for a company for several months. It was a enjoyable job and everything was going great. About a month ago I was called into the director's office.

My superior, HR, as well as several members of management were sitting at a desk. They gave me a piece of paper to me and asked me to read it, and it turned out to be a document accusing me of sexual harassment. A woman in my department claimed I was harassing her verbally and sexually, however all of her claims were completely false.

She completely made up false stories or took things that did happen and twisted them to lies. I have very little interaction with this woman during my normal work hours. I would say hello to her if I passed her in a hallway, but that's about it. She claimed I would make "kissy" faces at her.

Another incident occurred when an office mate and I were waiting for the elevator and she was there as well. My office mate and I were going to get lunch I asked him if he wanted Thai food. He asked if I liked spicy foods, to which I replied yes, I like spicy Thai and Indian food. She claimed in her document that I "looked right at her licking my lips and telling her I like things hot and spicy".

Her list continued on with these false claims. The managers asked me to respond to the document, where I denied every claim held against me. They told me they would investigate the matter, and I was told to go home and not come back to work until they called. They said the leave would be paid. I haven't done any of the things she claimed, yet they are treating me as if I am guilty.

A week later they called me in to the office. I sat down with the same group and they said they did an investigation and found none of the claims to be true, however, I was being transferred to a different department with a different job. I was told not to discuss the matter with anyone.

I asked what was going to happen to the woman who falsely accused me and they said nothing. Apparently there is no punishment for possibly destroying someones career. In addition to that, the CEO called me into his office to talk to me. I thought I was getting an apology, but instead he said if this were to happen again I would be fired. I was quite angry and snapped at him saying it wasn't possible to happen again if it didn't happen in the first place.

I was proven innocent yet I feel like I am being treated as guilty. I am now working on a less enjoyable project. Although no one is supposed to know of the supposed harassment, everyone does. Peoples attitudes toward me have changed. This job has become miserable, all because a crazy woman made up lies about me. And as far as I know, this woman has had zero consequences for her lies.

What can I do?

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    Hello pissedoff, welcome to The Workplace. I am sorry to hear what has happened, you do not deserve to be put through all of this. Now, coming to your post, what is the specific goal you want us to address? If you are looking for ways to get your coworker punished, or some sort of compensation from the company, you would have to tell us your location as the local workplace practices and laws would be relevant to decide how you go about it. – Masked Man Jun 3 '18 at 3:41
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    Laws about this issue vary from country to country. What country does this take place? – TheRealLester Jun 3 '18 at 4:46
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    Leave. Leave now. You do not want to work with these people. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jun 3 '18 at 7:15
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    You need to see a lawyer. – nvoigt Jun 3 '18 at 7:57
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    Time to see a lawyer. You may have a tort against both the accuser and your company. However, you need someone with a bar card to give you competent advice, and not "The Internet." – Wesley Long Jun 3 '18 at 14:07

Whether you like it or not: your career there is over and you it's time to plan your exit strategy. It's not fair, but it is inevitable. Once you accept this, you can focus on how to best do this.

  1. Start looking for a new job right now. The earlier you get one, the better it will be
  2. Look at your references. If any possible get some from a previous employer, so you really don't need one from the current gig.
  3. Create as much of a paper trail as possible. Copy any e-mail, documents, etc. Capture any verbal interaction with as much detail as you can: date, who was there, what was said, etc.
  4. Study the employee handbook and make sure you understand all the relevant passages around harassment claims, right to investigation, mediation etc.
  5. Talk to a lawyer. This would be one of the very few occasions where I would recommend this. It doesn't seem like the company did this by the book, but regulations vary wildly from location to location, so you need to talk to someone, who knows the local laws

The goal of engaging a lawyer is NOT to sue someone but to get a sense of what you may be able to get out of the company and how to best approach them about. The company does NOT want to be sued by anyone for anything. It's expensive and bad publicity. It many cases they would rather agree to a "mutually beneficial agreement". This could mean some sort of severance payment and/or agree to give a you great reference. It's a delicate negotiation, since you absolutely can't really say it that way. Hence a professional may be helpful here.

You need phrases like "My client feels that in the meeting on 4/23 with Jane Doe and Henry Smith your leadership didn't follow proper process you laid in section 3.8 of the Employee Handbook which led to a significant detriment of his work situation" . That's the type of language that puts fear into the heart of any HR professional

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    My rational part 100% agree with you. My gut is keep telling me OP shouldn't accept any deal and someone else is committing a crime then she should pay for it. – Adriano Repetti Jun 3 '18 at 17:01
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    @AdrianoRepetti Unless she dished out some clear cut factual lies that are easy to prove as such, you can't go after her directly. However, if you manage to squeeze a 100k settlement out of the company, they will be mad. They can't focus their wrath at you, because you are gone. Who else would they blame for this ? – Hilmar Jun 3 '18 at 17:08
  • You're undoubtedly right, let's get a compensation and leave her to face the blame. – Adriano Repetti Jun 3 '18 at 18:33

A week later they called me in to the office. I sat down with the same group and they said they did an investigation and found none of the claims to be true.

Generally when one person makes an accusation against another, there are three ways the resulting process can turn out.

(A) Evidence proves (to some high degree of evidence) that the accusation was substantially true.

(B) Evidence proves that the accusation was substantially false.

(C) Evidence is not strong enough to prove whether the accusation was true or false.

From your post, I'm not clear whether the outcome here is (B) or (C). "Found none of the claims to be true" could mean either "found that none of the claims were true" (i.e. B) or "did not find that any of the claims were true" (C). The difference is very important.

If the investigation did find that these claims were untrue, then your employer definitely should be taking some kind of disciplinary action against your accuser and moving to quench harmful gossip against you. Depending on where you work, it's very likely that making false accusations is against your employer's code of conduct and/or applicable anti-bullying laws. Your next step should be to seek out a lawyer, who can advise you better than anybody here.

However, many workplace harassment allegations end up with a "he said/she said" situation where the accusation can't be conclusively proven or disproven. In this case, it's not appropriate to punish either party. The accused party is entitled to the presumption of innocence on the accusation of harassment; the accuser is also entitled to the presumption of innocence on the accusation of lying about harassment.

Obviously this isn't a great outcome. Keeping accuser and accused in the same department is likely to lead to ongoing tensions, harm productivity, and quite possibly lead to repeat allegations or retaliation. It's in the employer's interest to separate people who don't get along, and in general an employer does have the right to reassign staff according to the needs of the business - even if that means moving somebody to a less enjoyable project. Unless you can find proof that this was done with the purpose of punishing you over these allegations, a lawyer is unlikely to have anything to work with here.

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    Hey there, anonymous downvoter - care to comment on what you disliked about this answer? – Geoffrey Brent Jun 3 '18 at 9:58

What can I do?

You can look for a new job or you can persevere with the one you have. You don't really have any other options that look beneficial.

Making waves over this only brings your sexual harassment allegations into the drama of the day category and you will always get people who believe them.

That is about all you can do in many places.

However, I'm in the third World so if this happened to me, this lady would find herself explaining what happened to my wife, female cousins, or sisters, just as people who have harassed my wife have had to explain what happened to me since it is a very personal offence to me.

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