Ep 45 – Dealing with False Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Here are today’s HR and workplace news headlines from Workology Go Podcast. I’m Jessica Miller-Merrell. The Workology Go Podcast is sponsored by Workology.

Ep 45 – Dealing with False Sexual Harassment Allegations

For us working in HR, sexual harassment investigations are necessary but unwelcome part of our jobs.

For those that aren’t aware sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. In 2018, the EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment. That reflects more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over fiscal year 2017.

In addition, charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from fiscal year 2017.

Overall, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

I’m not going to go into the details on the definition of sexual harassment. I do want to talk about in the post MeToo movement, the growing concern mainly among men I am hearing about that are fearful about false sexual harassment charges.

Sometimes when I try to hug someone they tell me, “I can’t do that (meaning hug) anymore.” While I understand where they are coming from. It makes me sad and I wondered how many sexual harassment charges are actually false.

Today’s featured article comes from Minnesota Law Review and is titled, “Men Fear False Allegations. Women Fear Sexual Misconduct, Assault, and Rape.”

With the increase in technology including social media and video, there is an increased likelihood that a sexual harassment incident might be available for us to view. Let’s talk about how we get this information from Kate Bishoff, an attorney who talked about sexual harassment with me on a previous Workology Podcast.

If a person come forward and said hey look at the video and you should see the video or you should have seen the posting is to ask for them. Can you give me the snap and you forwarded to me. Can you take a screenshot of the post because you need first to make sure that you have it. I often use an example with some Carlson School of Management students about you know what happens if you post something bad. Well the first thing that H.R. is going to want to need to have is the actual post because in some instances it’s easy for someone to delete the post or or in the case of Snapchat it can disappear. So we need to have that first off and then we need to go through what is our normal investigative process. What what do we do in situations like that. If it’s a third party and anon there’s somebody who was not the target of the comments or the video or the post. Who’s bringing it to you. Do you need to go talk to the person who received that first. Or do you want to go straight to the individual who posted it. That will depend on the individual fact scenario. But H.R. is going to want to take action and the first thing that they’re going to need to do is make sure they have the offending social media post of some sort.

There are certainly false accusations or accusations where there is no evidence to support them. However, I do know that so many harassment incidents don’t get reported. According to a 2008 study by the Association of Women in Action, 54% of the respondents reported to have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also reported to having experienced workplace sexual harassment at management and senior management positions.

I think it’s more likely that these events go unreported and than people mainly men being falsely reported especially if 50 out of 100 or more have been sexually harassed at work. Even if 5 out of 100 reports are false, that’s still 45 that are true. I think we should be worrying less about false accusations and more about making sure that victims feel comfortable and confident that they can talk to someone in HR instead of the EEOC, the media, or worse.

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Men Fear False Allegations. Women Fear Sexual Misconduct, Assault, and Rape.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. The topic of this podcast was false allegations. I am very disappointed that it was MINIMIZED, DISREGARDED as important and DISMISSED. False sexual harassment claims are just as important as legitimate claims.

  2. Totally agree with Jen G. I searched for false allegation and got an article that minimized the subject and made it seem totally dispensable.

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