Litigation on new business

Discussion in 'Starting a Business' started by learningropes, Aug 23, 2010.

  1. learningropes

    learningropes
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    I just bought a company in July, immediately incorporated it (effective August 1, 2010), now suddenly one of the employees leaves, says she was sexually harassed by another employee a few months ago. Her husband is naturally an angry man right now. The extent of the relationship was Facebook conversations at home.

    Sexual harassment could have very well taken place. There were 2-way explicit conversations between these two employees. These conversations never took place on company time, or company networks. Both were supervisors, one over operations the other over HR. The only reason the relationship ended seems to be because she was caught by her husband.

    Could I be dragged into this now? Even if this relationship started prior to me acquiring the company? Should I not have some sort of protections being a corporate entity? I did not know anything of this relationship until 3 days ago. What legal protective actions should I immediately take, do I fire the other party who is still employed tomorrow?
     
  2. businessamateur

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    The matter is between two parties and if it happened when they were not at work, then I see little reason for you to be dragged into this.

    Regardless of what you and I think, I recommend that you seek legal advise from someone specialized in this area. You want to cover all your bases in case they try to get you involved.
     
  3. Kay

    Kay
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    I agree with businessamateur and I think your gut is right here. Her husband has seen her Facebook and now she's crying wolf to cover her tail IMHO. The conversations were explicit BOTH ways you said so I don't see how she'd have a case.

    Nor do you have grounds to just jump in and fire someone for something that you have no proof of that's not been investigated in any way. As you said, this communication did not occur in working hours or on company networks. Firing the person would be a very bad move and you'd be more likely open yourself up to a lawsuit by doing that than anything else. Just stop and think instead of reacting. Consult a lawyer before doing anything. Call the one you used during the sale and ask him/her to recommend someone that covers that area or if they do.

    If indeed she does claim harassment, she'd get laughed out of court I would bet, given that her messages were explicit too. It can't be harrasment if it's reciprocated, can it? Not only that but she'd be in the press. I don't think she's really thought through how far this would go if she keeps claiming this. I don't believe it for a minute. It sounds like there's been a workplace affair and she got caught, plain and simple.

    (P.S. I'd take screenshots of what's on both of their Facebook accounts before they start thinking about deleting any public posts that may be incriminating. Your lawyer may need them.)

    Talk to a lawyer. That's your first move.
     
    #3 Kay, Aug 23, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2010
  4. learningropes

    learningropes
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    I will follow all suggestions above. Yes it was certainly 2-way and very explicit. Nothing happened on premises or on company equipment. Crying wolf I agree with (and I am very neutral on the matter) - it was only a concern after she was caught.

    Both used fictitious accounts on Facebook (both were hiding it from spouses) Nothing was ever said public. Most conversations occurred using the Facebook IM (no trails it seems) and a few private messages, but nothing posted in public view. She sent alot of photos, he sent nothing. I don't know if it makes a difference aside from the whole he said she said thing but it was only ever an internet relationship, no rendezvous or anything of that sort (thankfully for the children of these two immature selfish idiots).

    The concern I have is the fact that he was the HR supervisor, and she told her husband that she was scared to say anything for fear she might lose her job. At least that was what he (the upset husband) told me when he said "I feel I have a pretty good case against you". To which I politely said "the case you have against the employee, not my corporation". I guess I just didn't wanna call the lawyer on the weekend, and now 10 hours before I call I am getting really nervous about the situation.
     
  5. Fergal

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    learningropes I agree fully with the advice you have received so far - you need to speak to a legal professional on this matter as soon as possible. In the meantime I'd suggest that you don't discuss the situation or otherwise communicate with the other parties until you have taken professional legal advice. If one of them asks you about it, say that you will be discussing the matter with your solicitor and refuse to be drawn on the subject. If they insist ask them to contact your solicitor.

    It's not a nice situation to be in and you have my sympathy, but you did nothing wrong so everything will work out. Take legal advice and move on with running your business.

    Good luck with it and please post back to let us know how it works out.
     
  6. Kay

    Kay
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    learningropes, a question: what country are you in? Just thinking about sexual harassment law and wondering whose laws you'll be under. All I could dig up for now was this article. It may give you ideas on what to bring up with the lawyer.

    How Employers Should Handle Workplace Romance|BusinessWeek

    And I agree 100% with Fergal. I wouldn't be saying anything to the husband apart from contact my lawyer. My feeling is he's looking for someone to blame that's not his wife. It's all misplaced anger and unfortunately you're getting the brunt of it. Let us know how it goes and good luck. :)
     
  7. learningropes

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    That is an excellent article Kay, thank you. It made me feel like everything has already been in place and addressed properly. I am in the Mid-West region of the US. I guess I need to just sit back and let counsel handle everything. :)
     
  8. Kay

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    Yep, I think you'd be very wise indeed to do just that. :) And you're very welcome, learningropes. I'm glad it helped. I was thinking more about this today and the fact that they both went to the trouble to create separate Facebook accounts from their usual ones has to weaken their position too.

    So how do you like owning this new business apart from these shenanigans? Talk about a baptism of fire! :) Hope the rest has been a bit more smooth for you.
     

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