#MeToo On the Rise Still | Conducting Sexual Harassment Investigations

Overshadowed by a global pandemic and incidents of social injustice across the nation, the #MeToo movement is still making headlines. In recent weeks, we’ve learned more about allegations surrounding inappropriate behavior and abuse of power from two different high-profile men.

Currently, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz is at the center of a Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws with a 17-year-old girl in 2019. His associate, former Seminole County, Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg, recently pleaded guilty to sex-trafficking of a child, wire fraud, identity theft, stalking, and conspiracy. 

Greenberg’s cooperation with the Justice Department could put additional legal pressure on Gaetz as investigators work to determine whether he broke sex-trafficking or prostitution laws himself. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates has been at the center of attention since he and wife Melinda announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage. The separation has thrust a decades-old affair with a Microsoft employee into the spotlight.

In 2020, Gates resigned from Microsoft’s board of directors after the board, according to The Wall Street Journal, decided that Gates needed to step down as they pursued a workplace investigation into the billionaire’s prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft staffer that was deemed inappropriate.

Although Gates resigned before the board’s investigation was completed, a spokeswoman for Gates said the affair ended amicably. The New York Times also published additional details about Gates’ alleged unprofessional behavior. In the article, people familiar with Gates said he developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings, and on at least a few occasions pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft.

The decades old affair, allegations of questionable conduct and board of directions investigation bring to light the importance of handling the underlying investigations associated with such claims. Here are a few tips for conducting effective workplace investigations:

  • The workplace investigation should be immediate and prompt. 
  • The investigation should be conducted by an independent third party.
  • The workplace investigation should be thorough.  This means it should include interviews with all complaining parties, witnesses, and those being accused of the alleged misconduct.
  • The investigation should be impartial and unbiased.
  • The workplace investigation should make findings as to whether, based on a preponderance of the evidence (just a hair – 51% of the evidence or more), the alleged misconduct is likely to have occurred or not.  Are the allegations founded or unfounded?
  • Based on the findings of the investigation, the employer should determine if any remedial or disciplinary action is necessary. This could include the termination or other discipline of the individuals involved.  Remedial action also may include training, coaching, mediation, and other tools designed to help get the workplace back to a positive place.  
  • It is important that during and following the investigation, the employer does not do anything toward any employee involved with or connected with the investigation that is or may appear to be retaliatory.

Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator 

Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company.  She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with her on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.

This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.

 

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