How to overcome wrongful accusations in the workplace

Despite your best efforts to win the respect of your colleagues, they may not respond positively. In fact, for reasons that range from jealousy to spite and malicious intent, your co-workers may spread rumours or make wrongful accusations about you. Depending on the nature of the allegations, you may need to take action to protect yourself and your rights. Accusations of sexual harassment or workplace negligence, for example, can damage or end your career at your current company; if these accusations are false, you might find yourself in a position to need to do what you can to prove them to be false.

Stay calm. If you have been formally accused of something, your company is legally required to take the accusation seriously and investigate -- whether or not it is true. Do not become defensive, angry, confrontational or otherwise emotional with your management or accuser.

Prepare to defend yourself. For example, if you are accused of using inappropriate language in the workplace, find witnesses to the scene who can attest to what actually happened. If you are accused of wasting time on the Internet instead of working, print out your browser history report as evidence. In more extreme cases, you may be asked to provide evidence -- if you are accused of drug use, for example, you may need to take a drug test.

Look for other jobs during the investigation. Depending on the state in which you live, your employer may reserve the right to terminate your position for any reason, including suspicion of misconduct. Be prepared for the possibility that this may happen at any point during the investigation.

Document all communications regarding the accusation. Save all e-mails and text messages regarding the accusation, especially if the accusation regards written misconduct -- if a co-worker accuses you of sexual harassment via e-mail, for example.

Request your personnel file and all other documents that the company has on file for you. In some states, like California, you have the right to access these materials. They may prove beneficial as you defend yourself to your employer -- for example, if you are accused of misconduct with a client, you may show that you have a perfect record of customer reviews and have never before had any issues.

Avoid communicating with your accuser. Do not attempt to defend yourself or retaliate -- communicating with them will invariably complicate the situation and most likely will not benefit you.

Wait patiently for your employer's decision on the accusation. Short of offering your cooperation and preparing to defend yourself, there is little you can do but wait for the employer's decision and determine how to move on based on what they decide.

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Things Needed

  • Evidence pertaining to the accusation, like call logs, Internet history, e-mails and so on.
  • Personnel file (if available)

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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