Their Affair Is Over, Now Its “Harassment”

Question:

The president of our company had an affair with an employee (both employee & president are married). After a few months of flirting via email & IM’s the employee quit. She has filed for unemployment citing sexual harassment & hostile workplace among other things. She was denied.

Now I have received an appeal and there will be a hearing. I have proof that she was a willing participant in the form of a printed out script of an IM. I am concerned that if we fight the appeal she will take us to court. Do you have any suggestions? At this point I’m running out of answers. Thank you

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

This is definitely a situation for which you need the advice of an attorney. With your company facing a potential for a variety of lawsuits and legal actions if the employee decides to take it that far, it will be well worth the money to get legal assistance. The president can figure out how to explain the expense if he has to do that. I will mention this one bit of workplace advice for you, however. Often the person who is responsible for responding to these matters in hearings can start feeling–and being treated–as though they are responsible for making it all work out. You neither caused it nor do you have control over what decisions are made.

You do, however, have the responsibility to get the best advice you can get, and document what you have done about it. You also can ensure that no one is talking about this matter at work, except as needed. Someone there is probably keeping the former employee updated, so all the conversation should be focused just how you and others want to respond fairly and accurately.

That will almost certainly involve using whatever evidence you have available, to try to show consent. However, an attorney will be able to review the material and tell you if it is likely to help or not.

Please seek that kind of counsel to protect your organization and your role in it.

Best wishes with this!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.