What Are My Rights When I Am Being Investigated For Harassment By My Employer In New York?
What rights you have in an internal investigation for unlawful harassment depends on what type of employer you have. If you are employed by the government, then there is likely a procedure set forth in statutes and regulations that gives you certain rights in this investigation. For example, you may have the right to be represented by counsel at any interviews by the employer’s interviewers. So, too, you may have the right to an evidentiary hearing before you are terminated.
A civil service employee may only be terminated for cause. So in order to terminate you, the governmental employer must be able to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you did, in fact, engage in the harassment.
Similarly, if you work in the private sector but you are a member of a union, you have certain rights. These rights are set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the employer and your union.
Typically, the collective bargaining agreement contains a grievance procedure that begins with certain meetings between the employee or union representative and the representative of the employer. Those meetings are called steps of the process.
If the harassment complaint cannot be resolved in those steps, then you have the right, under most collective bargaining agreements, to arbitrate the matter before a neutral arbitrator. The arbitration hearing is a trial-type proceeding in which you have the right to testify, to call other witnesses to testify and to cross-examine the employer’s witnesses. At the arbitration hearing, you make the case that you did not engage in the harassment or that the harassment does not rise to the level of cause for your termination.
If you are in the private sector, your rights are considerably fewer. New York is an employment-at-will state. That means that employment law in New York is not always fair, and it’s not always just. Unless you have an employment contract that says otherwise, you can be terminated for no reason or any reason, as long as it’s not a reason that’s prohibited by statute or public policy.
If you’re in the private sector and you have no employment agreement, your employer can fire you because it believes you’ve engaged in unlawful harassment, even if your employer’s determination is mistaken.
My law firm represents executives, professionals, supervisors, and managers in all stages of internal investigations against them for alleged sexual harassment. We confer with the accused executive or professional about the facts and we review the relevant documents. We prepare the accused executive or professional for interviews with investigators and participate in those interviews, as the accused’s counsel. We undertake to rebut the accuser’s claims against the executive or professional by showing that the accuser is unworthy of belief and/or that illegitimate motives for his or her accusations exist. Or, we make the case that even if the assertions were true, those assertions would constitute neither unlawful harassment nor violation of the employer’s codes of conduct.
If you are an executive or a professional in the New York City metro area and your employer is internally investigating you for unlawful sexual harassment, other unlawful workplace harassment, or other misconduct, call New York City Workplace Harassment Lawyer David S. Rich at (347) 941-0760 today.