I am the owner of a department store. One of our relatively new employees has claimed she was sexually assaulted by a manager while at a party not affiliated with the store. The case is underway, but she has come to me and complained that other employees treat her suspiciously and unfairly. She believes that the accused manager, who has worked here for a very long time and is friends with most of the other employees, has told them about the charge, and that they are getting revenge on his behalf. For their part, the other employees say that they treat her as a regular employee, and that she is often belligerent and rude both to them and to customers, without provocation, which has led to the actions and incidents she has perceived as unfair (for instance, a manager made her work in the back after she yelled at a customer, despite knowing that she disliked working in the back). These performance issues had been observed ever since her first day at this store. The accused manager (who now works shifts that do not overlap with hers) claims that he has not told anyone about the allegations and that it is in fact the new employee who has been sharing the story.
It concerns me that this employee feels threatened and unwanted at our store, and I would like to ensure that she feels safe and comfortable here. If people are taking revenge against her or trying to protect the accused employee, that is absolutely unacceptable. What can I do to ensure that no animosity is being directed at her due to general knowledge of her involvement in this case? How can I tell whether animosity towards her is due to her allegations or due to the poor quality of her performance? The people who have allegedly treated her unfairly are responsible people whom I trust, yet they are also very good friends with the accused manager. This is a situation in which I do not know what to do, and I have had trouble finding helpful resources.
At the same time, her performance has become a big issue, and I feel as though she is a liability to the store due to her treatment of customers. Multiple 1-star reviews have been posted on Yelp in the time since I hired her complaining about the rude service, two specifically mentioning her name. Yet I feel trapped, as though to terminate her employment will give the impression of a conspiracy against her to protect the employee accused of sexual assault.