Accused of Verbal Harassment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbal harassment complaint:

Someone at work had filed a verbal harassment against me. They wouldn’t tell me who it is but I have an idea. Two weeks ago, I had a problem with the person I worked with. There were things that needed to be done but that person said that it was not his job responsibly. I told my co-worker he was watching television and sitting on his ass when there are things that needed to be done. This co-worker had always called me little boy, and I didn’t like it. I told him that. A week later this complaint came up. I was suspended at work with administrative leave until further investigation. What can I do to defend myself?

Signed, On Leave

DearĀ On Leave:

You can wait for the investigation either to find you guilty or not guilty. In the meantime you can clean the house, visit with family, play golf or whatever. You can worry and gossip about this with family and friends until they would wish for you to go away. These probably are not the best things to do. Rather, you can prepare a carefully written report such as you sent us, but with to the best of your recollection dates of when, where and why these occurred and of those who witnessed them if any did. Prepare several copies should you need them. Be honest and concise.

Once this is complete you can give it to the investigator now or when and if asked. Since you have not been told who made the complaint it would be best not to give it to the investigation unless asked about that particular event or related event. Don’t pass this around or gossip about it. I would not call what you said verbal harassment unless you did it repeatedly. From what you say, I expect that the investigation will find you not guilty, unless you have a reputation as a troublemaker.

Should the investigation result in discipline or firing, you can then consult an attorney to learn if you might contest that. Should you be written up and you are asked to sign off on it, you can submit a rebuttal of what you deem wrong. It also would be wise for you to think through how you are viewed within your work area and what your performance evaluations have said. Are you seen as a responsible and go-to-kind of employee? Are you friendly and a cheerleader of others? Do you carry your own load and sometimes do what you can to make others’ work easier? Have you suggested ways to cut wasted supplies, time, and energy? Are you customer-minded?Now is not the time for you to become obsessed or soured. You need to have both a hard shell and an open mind focused on how the next week, month and year can be good for you and your workplace. Working together rarely is easy. Work is work. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. To achieve that means you must put yourself in the place of others as well as hold your head high.

William Gorden