Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace

Advising organisations and individuals dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and investigations in the workplace

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"Their commitment, preparation and tenacity set them apart. They are a strong firm. Their various departments work in harmony and deliver the same high-quality work."

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK's Legal Profession

Allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct can be distressing for both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. When they occur in the workplace, it adds greater complexity and uncertainty.
 

A single allegation may immediately give rise to interwoven questions about the future of the employment relationship; criminal liability; regulatory responsibilities; and reputation management.  For a suspected employee, an allegation alone may be sufficient to cause significant and lasting career and reputational damage. A mishandled process can also expose an employer to legal risk and reputational damage.  Sexual misconduct allegations can range from sex or sexual harassment to work place relationships with an imbalance of power or status and/or issues of consent.

The steps taken by an employer and a suspected employee in these pressured circumstances can reverberate far beyond the initial examination of a complaint.  Accounts provided in an employment context, whether “informally” or as part of an investigation or disciplinary process, may become admissible in later criminal proceedings.  Conversely, an incorrectly conducted investigation may fatally infect evidence which would otherwise have formed the basis of an independent criminal investigation.

For a suspected employee, the decision as to whether to engage with an investigation can be complex, especially for regulated professionals, where considerations may include:

  • Whether engagement will present the greatest prospect of clearing your name internally and thereby preserving your job;
  • Whether engaging will satisfy your regulator;
  • If it protects your position as a suspect; and
  • How to ensure that any account protects your interests, no matter where the investigation leads.

Employers have the difficult task of navigating an investigation, and possibly a disciplinary process, with potentially wide ranging ramifications, alongside the original grievance raised by the complainant. The organisation needs to consider its legal obligations to all the employees involved, whether the suspect or the complainant(s), and the requirements of any regulator.

Our top ranked Employment, Regulatory and Criminal Litigation lawyers work seamlessly in investigating and advising both organisations and individuals dealing with these issues. Reputation management can also be a key consideration when there are allegations of sexual misconduct, as press interest is common, especially where the individual and/or the organisation are high profile. Our team of Reputation Management lawyers can quickly assess the situation and give strategic advice on courses of action to take in respect of privacy, defamation and data protection issues.

Further information

If you have any questions or require advice concerning allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace, please email a member of our team in confidence.

Sandra Paul discusses the complexities and challenges of dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace

Paper - Non-Disclosure Agreements: One year on

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Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK's Legal Profession

"Kingsley Napley LLP’s ‘extremely good and highly professional’ reputation management team frequently supports its criminal and regulatory practice in cases involving high-profile individuals."

Legal 500 UK

Sexual misconduct in the workplace - Knowledge hub

Sexual misconduct in the workplace - Knowledge hub

Misconduct in the (cyber) workplace

Employers and HR managers have a myriad of issues to think about in the wake of Covid-19 and understandably may even have postulated that #metoo related challenges might fall down the list. In fact, however, misconduct and harassment risks have not entirely disappeared. They have merely morphed into another form, now largely online.

Non-Disclosure Agreements: one year on

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Lawyers must fix the problems with gagging orders before it is too late

The confusion must be cleared away and guidance established if these deals are to remain trusted and useful, writes Iain Miller for The Brief.

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The ripple effect: the family law consequences of allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace

Two years on from the start of the #MeToo movement, many of those involved in the often high profile harassment cases which came to light as a result are continuing to see repercussions, including beyond the complainant and accused when marriages are impacted and it can have significant relevance to the financial aspects of the divorce proceedings.

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Facing a sexual misconduct allegation at work: the importance of your first account

Facing any accusation of misconduct at work is difficult, but allegations of sexual misconduct are particularly distressing. In this blog, Kirsty Churm and Matthew Hardcastle address the importance of an employee's first account and how to prepare if given advanced warning.

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Two years after #MeToo: is there a case for banning relationships at work?

The current discussion around the dismissal of McDonald's boss, Steve Easterbrook has focused attention on a very important point. Just what should employers be doing to ensure their workplaces reflect the current mood and culture around banishing sexual misconduct and sexual harassment?

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Inappropriate behaviour - when the past is not left in the past

The news that Stephen Jones, head of UK Finance, has quit over "thoroughly unpleasant" personal comments he made in 2008 is a stark reminder to executives that their past behaviour may one day come back to haunt them. Corinne Aldridge looks at the case and highlights to employers the new norms that apply to sexist remarks in the workplace.

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Innocent until proven guilty: how universities must handle sexual allegations

Universities need to consider fairness to all parties during investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and not fall into a post #metoo trap of focusing solely on those bringing complaints.

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Student misconduct allegations and the right to a fair hearing

The temptation to approach the adjudication of a student complaint as merely an ‘internal process’, is one of the most common errors made by some higher education institutions. The process adopted must be capable of examination by an independent and external eye to ensure that at each stage of the process, the rights of all individuals involved are protected.

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How Universities should investigate a complaint under the disciplinary procedure

Once an allegation is made against a student (or member of academic staff), either by another student, a member of staff or someone outside the university, it is important that the University takes stock of the issue and acts carefully to ensure fairness to all parties. Things go wrong when institutions form a quick visceral judgement, and cease to be impartial.

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Was the Cliff Richard judgment really a blow to press freedom? The “Drone Couple” would likely disagree

The Cliff Richard privacy judgment was thought to be a landmark case when it comes to press reporting of a police investigation. We explore whether the ruling is taken into account when reporting on other types of investigations.

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Pre trial cross-examination of sexual offence complainants

From June 2019, complainants in trials for sex offences selected Crown Courts will be eligible to have their cross-examination pre-recorded. Will it actually make any real difference and what about the impact on the rights of defendants?

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The first crucial steps: how Universities should respond to allegations of misconduct

University providers owe a duty of care towards staff members and students; this duty takes on particular significance during a disciplinary process and it is essential that Universities provide appropriate and relevant information and support to all parties involved in allegations of misconduct.

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Getting it right from the start: University policies for dealing with non-academic misconduct complaints

Kingsley Napley has partnered with four of the of most experienced barristers acting in this space to provide a series of six blogs, taking a detailed look into the systems and processes that (should) sit behind the resolution of student misconduct allegations in Universities.

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Universities lack the skills to properly investigate sexual misconduct claims

With the arrival of the new academic year comes the need, perhaps more than ever before, for universities to ensure they have robust processes in place for dealing with complaints of sexual misconduct.

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The Government publishes a response to its Consultation on NDAs aka confidentiality clauses - is it a pass or a fail?

Richard Fox explores the recent Government paper and looks at what it says, what it commits to, and whether they have made any missteps, and if it could they have gone further?

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At last we are moving away from a state of limbo over NDAs

NDAs and Brexit have this in common. Whilst many may be unhappy and confused with the current position, consensus on the way forward has thus far proved elusive. That may now be changing.

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Ted Baker's ‘forced hugs policy’: Lessons for other employers

The instance of Ted Baker offers some important lessons to other employers as they seek to update their approach in a post-#MeToo​ era.

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Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace Insights

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Blogs

Sexual misconduct allegations in law firms are ever-present – following due process is key

Inappropriate behaviour - when the past is not left in the past

Appealing and challenging university disciplinary decisions: what students need to know

Student misconduct allegations and the right to a fair hearing

Misconduct in the (cyber) workplace

How Universities should investigate a complaint under the disciplinary procedure

The first crucial steps: how Universities should respond to allegations of misconduct

Getting it right from the start: University policies for dealing with non-academic misconduct complaints

Reflections on The Split – S2, E5: Sex tapes, bugging and workplace relationships

Two years after #MeToo: is there a case for banning relationships at work?

Universities lack the skills to properly investigate sexual misconduct claims

Innocent until proven guilty: how universities must handle sexual allegations

Fresher's Week - A parent's perspective on an essential discussion about rape and navigating consent

The Government publishes a response to its Consultation on NDAs aka confidentiality clauses - is it a pass or a fail?

Pre trial cross-examination of sexual offence complainants

Was the Cliff Richard judgment really a blow to press freedom? The “Drone Couple” would likely disagree

At last we are moving away from a state of limbo over NDAs

One year on from the President’s Dinner, what has changed?

Ted Baker's ‘forced hugs policy’: Lessons for other employers

Eastenders explores rape: Part 4 – what happens when someone is accused of rape?

Socially engineered juries....what next?

The extension of the SMCR, the fit & proper test and the increasing significance of non-financial misconduct

EastEnders explores rape: Part 3 – witness interviews

EastEnders explores rape: Part 2 – reporting a rape

#MeToo one year on: can we expect regulatory guidance soon?

C5 notices – extrajudicial punishment or innovative policing?

EastEnders explores rape: Part 1 - consent is more complicated than ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Is Section 40 of the Equality Act due a comeback?

How best to react to claims of sexual misconduct

How to bring an allegation of sexual misconduct in the workplace

Handling sexual misconduct complaints: lessons to learn from the Russell McVeagh report

Dealing with sexual allegations in the workplace

Dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at work

Fair investigation of sexual harassment claims in the workplace

Sexual Harassment: Guidance for employers

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