Retaliation for an accusation of improper practices by an employee is one of the biggest and, unfortunately, more common mistakes an HR department can make. It can be frustrating when an employee makes an allegation, and some often feel the temptation to discipline that employee because of said allegations. It is, however, a temptation that you must not give into, as the University of New England is finding out.
A professor at UNE is filing a lawsuit against the institution after she levied accusations of sexual harassment against her department chair. She claims that following the allegations (which include inappropriate electronic communications, comments and touching), not only did human resources take no action, but she actually received a series of retaliatory actions in response.
These retaliations, she claims, include sudden negative performance reviews and being removed as the head of student programs as well as losing her advising status and some teaching duties. She was also, she claimed, removed from her facilities in the department, forcing her to find other places to do her work.
The university, on the other hand, counters that they did offer corrective measures, of which the professor failed to make use and did not pursue the full administrative possibilities available to correct the situation.
Situations like this can be very sticky, but both harassment and retaliation are severe charges and very problematic for an HR department. It’s vital to make sure that as a management and leadership area, you are taking every step possible to ensure that charges along these lines are taken seriously and pursued to their logical conclusion. The consequences, otherwise, can cost millions.