More than 3,300 readers responded to my recent column on false accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Here are some of the most interesting responses.
One of the most provocative e-mails came from a woman who said she had falsely accused someone of sexual harassment:
Young and Inexperienced
“I once made a false claim of sexual harassment against someone. It was neither intentional nor vindictive — it was the result of too many players on the field and some serious miscommunication. I was young, inexperienced and not really good with office relations. It all started when the accused’s comments to me were overheard. My cubicle mate told my boss, my boss initiated certain procedures and another fellow in the department who very much liked me (and later became my fiancé) had words with him. So, when I finally convinced myself that there was a problem and then told the accused that he was frightening me, things had already gotten out of hand. I claimed that I thought he was sexually harassing me because. 1) I didn’t really know what sexual harassment was, and 2) my co-workers insisted it was and that things were only going to get worse if I didn’t speak up. The accused was forced to publicly apologize to the entire section. About a week later, the accused and I were able to sort things through. It seemed like a simple matter of communication (or lack of it) that had spiraled into something worse when other players got involved and because I didn’t have the experience in how to deal with office interactions early on. The whole event worries me because it happened so easily, without a lot of my encouragement. All it takes is a little misinterpretation and a lot of people, with or without good intentions. I’m sure that’s not an uncommon mix in the working world.”
Column Hits Close to Home
From a woman who says she was falsely accused by a male co-worker of sexual harassment:
“This hit very close to home! “I work for the federal government and was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a male co-worker. I had to go through a four-month-long investigation. Management started treating me differently and, from the day I was informed of the allegations, made me feel as if I were guilty. “The investigation has just concluded and the allegation was not substantiated and the case was closed. Meanwhile, my co-worker received a promotion! I asked to be moved out of that building away from my accuser and those supervisors and was told ‘No.’ “So to this day I keep working in the hostile environment this false sexual harassment claim has caused. It has been like one big domino effect on me. Being falsely accused of sexual harassment is a detrimental downfall to anyone’s career, but I have learned the best way to get even with your accuser is to forgive.”
There’s No Such Thing