Human beings are hard-wired to believe in fairness and justice. Psychological studies show that all but the most psychopathic of people feel a strong feeling of disgust when they witness something “unfair” or “unjust.”
What does that mean? Well, it means you can fire someone for any reason (right or wrong) or no reason at all, so long as it is not an illegal discrimination. For example, you can fire someone because you think their laugh is annoying even if they are good at their job. But you can’t fire someone for Tourette’s Syndrome because you think their tick is annoying because that is a disability discrimination.
This sometimes comes up when one employee accuses another employee of bad behavior. For example, say a woman accuses a man of sexual harassment. The man denies it. At this point, the employer must make sure that the woman is safe and not being forced to endure unwanted harassment and touching.
The employer is not required to determine whether the man is innocent before deciding to fire him. The employer does not need to pretend it is NCIS before taking action to protect the female (and itself).
That means that sometimes an innocent person will get fired. Yes, it’s unfair. That does not make it illegal.
This video explains more.
One employee has accused another of sexual harassment. Is it wrongful termination if I fire the accused employee and the allegations later turn out to be false?
No. In fact, it’s probably safer for you to remove the alleged harasser.
It may seem unfair for you to fire someone without knowing for sure that the allegations are true.
But the employer is not required to find out the truth in an investigation.
Employers are not investigative detectives and shouldn’t try to act like one.
When employment is “at will,” you can terminate an employee for any reason without repercussion, even if allegations are later shown to be false.
But when an employee levels an accusation of sexual harassment and the employer does nothing, then you may become liable for a “hostile work environment” for not protecting the harassed employee.
Rather than expose yourself to such liability, it may be better to terminate the accused employee.
You must use good judgment in these sensitive situations and there is not always one right answer.
Ask us how we can keep you safe from lawsuits with our Employer Protection Package. For a consultation call 800-449-8992 or email us at [email protected].