Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of racist slur.
A coworker (new employee, who has not made probation period, falsely accused me of making a racial slur to him. It is being investigated by HR, and I am off work on paid status. Can I be terminated for this?
Signed, I Didn’t
Dear I Didn’t:
It is understandable that when one is placed on leave that your organization takes accusations of racial matters seriously. HR’s investigation should determine if the accusation has substance. If it finds you guilty, you could be disciplined and/or fired. However, you have a right to defend yourself and if you are heavily disciplined, penalized or fired, and you are firm in your belief that you that the accusation is false, you can seek the help of an attorney.
Because race is such a sensitive matter and there are laws against discrimination and a hostile environment, organizations are wise to investigate an accusation of a racial slur (you don’t say if it was one or more). What can you do to defend yourself? You can review the occasions of your interaction with this new employee. In retrospect, to the best of your recollection, prepare notes of when, where, and what were the exact words on each interaction (yours and the new employee).
Note who, if any one, might have witnessed the interaction. Also reflect on things you might have said to other employees that could be interpreted as slurs. In addition you might state you have worked without complaints with others of a different race, if you have. While you are off from work, don’t become obsessed and overly anxious, but this time to make a file of the above notations and of copies of positive evaluation you’ve received since you’ve worked at this place. Avoid gossiping by email and phone with others where you work. If you are worried about the accusation, you might consult with an attorney for advice about what you should and should not say to HR investigators. Some attorneys don’t charge for a preliminary consultation.
Do keep us posted. We wish you the best. At this difficult time, it is hard to appreciate my signature sentence, but it is important nevertheless: Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. That is what I want for you and your work group.