8 Elements of Credibility Assessment in an Investigation of Sexual Harassment Claims

By: JML Law | December 28, 2018.
8 Elements of Credibility Assessment in an Investigation of Sexual Harassment Claims

We hear so many accusations of sexual harassment nowadays, that many of us have thought to ourselves at least once, “Okay, but what if some of the accusers are lying?” That’s what credibility assessment in an investigation of sexual harassment claims is for.

In my experience as a sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles, I can say with confidence that less than 5 percent of all sexual harassment claims that I have handled have been completely fabricated. Nonetheless, the importance of determining credibility when someone is accused of sexual harassment cannot be overstated.

After all, the accused’s career, reputation, and life are on the line. But how do investigators determine if the alleged victim is telling the truth or not? Today, our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney at JML Law is going to explain how it’s done.

Although private investigators, lawyers, and HR departments use the following strategy for guidance to assess credibility when investigating a sexual harassment claim, the same strategy is used by juries when the case goes to trial (though it rarely goes that far).

How the investigation of sexual harassment claims is conducted

Before any questions challenging the alleged victim’s story are tossed around, the first step is always to believe the accuser. Many companies ignore sexual harassment claims simply because the employer or any other influential or powerful figure in the HR department thinks the accuser is being unworthy of being taken seriously.

However, each and every sexual harassment claim deserves attention and investigation. Needless to say, you cannot believe the accuser without conducting a thorough and fair investigation into the complaint. “How is this investigation of sexual harassment claims conducted?” you may be wondering.

Let our experienced sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles explain. In addition to interviewing the alleged victim and the defendant, a proper sexual harassment investigation is always comprised of reviewing and finding any documents, policies, and other evidence such as photos, videos, emails, text messages, recorded phone conversations, footage, Internet searches, postcards, greeting cards, and many more.

Apart from all that, the investigator must interview witnesses and determine whether or not each witness is believable. After all, situations, where witnesses helped the alleged victim fabricate a sexual harassment claim are not unheard of. When asking witnesses questions, these questions must go well beyond the alleged act of sexual harassment, and must also touch upon motivations, timing, relationships, and many more.

8 elements of credibility assessment in sexual harassment claims

Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney is going to explain how to determine whether or not the person who is being interviewed is telling the truth:

  1. How does the person present the facts? Does he or she sound credible and with emotions attached to it or does it feel as if he or she simply memorized that text?
  2. How does the person react to follow-up questions? Does he or she panic or is he/she confident in what he/she is saying? What does his or her body language say?
  3. Can anyone else verify this story? Is there any evidence to support the accusations? Is there any way the evidence could be falsified or fabricated?
  4. Does the accuser’s timing of the alleged events match the witnesses’ stories? How long did it take the victim to speak out about the alleged acts of sexual harassment in the workplace?
  5. Is the person being consistent when telling his or her story? Has the story changed prior to or during the investigation? Is the person evasive or vague in his or her claims?
  6. Has the accuser ever been involved in questionable behavior in the past? Has he or she ever lied or fabricated stories for personal gain?
  7. Is there an economic gain to making up these sexual harassment allegations? Does the accuser have any motivation to fabricate or falsify this story? Does the accuser have an axe to grind with the alleged harasser?
  8. If the story adds up and the evidence is taken into account, is this story still logically plausible?

Now you know how credibility assessment in an investigation of sexual harassment claims is done. If you fear that you will not be believed, talk to our sexual harassment lawyers at JML Law. Schedule a free consultation by calling 818-610-8800 today.

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