a claim against someone stating they have done something wrong, harmful, or illegal.
How an Accusation Works
An accusation, especially in the workplace, is not something people take lightly—especially if “people” is the Human Resources (HR) department. If someone makes an accusation against an employee or coworker in the workplace, it usually deals with illegal activity or harassment. Some of the most common accusable workplace offenses include:
- Sexual harassment
- Violence against a coworker
- Recreational drug use on work premises
- Tampering with company documents
- Race and gender discrimination
To file an accusation against someone, you would go to the proper representative in HR and give as many details about the event as possible. This claim is simply an accusation until proven true. Just because someone makes an accusation doesn’t mean that the accused, called the Person Complained About (PCA), is guilty. The PCA has the right to defend themselves. When HR opens an investigation into supposed misconduct, an HR investigator will contact the PCA. They will interview them, go over workplace records, and give them a fair chance to prove that they’re innocent. If the HR investigator finds that the PCA is guilty of gross misconduct, they can lose their job and credibility.
John and George are working together as part of a marketing team developing a global ad campaign. The other eight team members are marketing professionals from different countries. Every week, a different member is in charge of leading meetings. This particular week, it’s John’s turn. Unfortunately, things at home aren’t going too well for John.
His wife, Susan, is scheduled for surgery, but his boss, Jorge, denied his time-off request. As John headed into the meeting, all he could think about was a way to get his time-off request approved. Distracted, John drifted off right as people were exchanging ideas. One member, in particular, also named Jorge, was offering most of the ideas. George noticed that John was “ignoring” Jorge’s contributions to the meeting but shrugged it off.
Later that day, George overheard John speaking with his wife, calling Jorge stupid and out-of-touch. Of course, John was referring to his boss, but George thought it was intended towards his teammate. Before John left for work, George saw John dismiss Jorge from the project. Because Jorge was from a different country, George assumed that John’s behavior towards Jorge was racially fueled. He reported this to HR. John, now accused of racial discrimination, had to deal with an HR investigation, which included speaking with other team members and Jorge. John was ultimately found innocent. John dismissed Jorge from the project because Jorge had a family emergency and had to fly back home. The accusation was false.
Significance of Accusation
A workplace accusation can easily ruin someone’s reputation. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the PCA is proved innocent—the office gossip, should something slip out, is damaging enough. Any accusation an employee or employer makes against a coworker needs to be well-thought-out and true. If there isn’t evidence to back up the claim, a warranted accusation will fall flat, and a false accusation will cause major damage. Not to mention, if the accusation is malicious enough, the PCA can take legal action against the accuser. Charges can include defamation, libel, and slander.