Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accusation of racism: I have had 6 complaints of saying something labeled as a racial comment. What does someone do or can do about these false accusations?
I work for a healthcare contractor that provides Management Services for a Hospitals, schools, Universities etc. In my location, a hospital, I am in charge of more than 108 employees and 3 managers. From time to time, I am placed in a position that requires me to serve corrective actions to employees who have violated policies. Considering the demographics, the diversity of our employees, we do sometimes try to forgive some actions unless we can identify that an employee sets a trend or habit of violating policies.
In the time that I have been here, 3 1/2 years, I have had 6 complaints of saying something labeled as a racial comment. Of course I denied the accusations and am very offended that someone would accuse me of this. This typically has occurred shortly after someone was written up for his/her actions. How can I defend myself when I cannot even get to speak with the accuser? Even though the claims have not been substantiated, according to the H.R. department of the hospital, it is still being held against me and they want me to be transferred out of here which would most likely cause me to move somewhere else.
Recently I was accused of yet another racial comment towards a new Manager. I suspect because he was written up for a no call, no show twice, out of retaliation. My question is what does someone do or can do about these false accusations? Certainly, if it were proven that I was guilty, I would be fired and possibly subjected to a civil suit. So what can be done to those who falsely accuse someone of this? What remedy would or could I have as I feel my reputation and character has been tarnished? Don’t I have rights that are to be protected?
Signed, Don’t I Have Rights?
Dear Don’t I Have Rights?:
Your question is both ethical and legal. Our site focuses on communication-related workplace matters, not legal. Therefore, my remarks should not be interpreted as giving legal advice. In fact, it seems to me that your employer should have legal counsel and policy to address your situation and this particular topic. What does your policy book say about being falsely accused of racial discrimination? Have you not established protocol and understanding for handing such accusations? Do you not have a superior and/or upper level executive from whom you might seek help? You might seek outside legal advice, but I expect that would be mostly educational for you; helping you think through how to avoid and cope with such accusations. What can you do, as you say, “to be protected” from false accusation?
Probably you can do little more than to have careful documentation and to keep your boss informed. Is there any way of punishing/prosecuting those who falsely accuse you of a racially discriminatory comment? Possibly, an investigation could be launched and depositions be taken to discover if indeed there was evidence of your making such remarks. Then, if the accusation proved lack evidence, the individual could be disciplined and/or sued. Most work organizations would not follow such a course, practically because doing so is costly and they would then risk being accused of retaliation. Might your contracting employer transfer you? Probably your employer could choose this as a course of action to clear its record instead of doggedly defending you. Why? Because it is a contractor agency and wants to maintain the goodwill and continued work with this particular hospital. Should that happen or about to happen, I doubt that you could do anything more than accept it decision and register your displeasure.
Obviously this matter weighs on your mind and should be openly discussed with your superior(s)’ Management Services contractor. Meanwhile, you’ll probably walk on eggs and worry that you will be transferred. That worry might go with your job.
What not to do is to work scared to do what you think is right. What not to do is obsess with this worry instead of focusing on doing your part to make your current place of service the best possible. Hopefully you have earned the respect of those in the hospital’s HR and management. Hopefully they will not request your transfer. Keep your head on straight and your body in shape for the emotional tone of your job. We learn for difficult situations. Policies evolve from trouble. Study the many sources that speak to being falsely accused within the workplace. Learn from them. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS implies you do your best to think and act for the good of those you serve. You can’t prevent bad things from happening to good people even when you do what you think is right. Feel free to update us on what transpires.