Proving Innocence May Cost More in Long Run
Employee Rights Attorney
Mission Viejo, California
Q: “I worked in sales for a major corporation for over three years without incident. Nearly a year ago, my manager accused me of using a false signature on an enrollment form and wrote a letter that will stay in my personnel file for one year.
“I insisted I was innocent but was told by the manager and the human resources department that there was nothing I could do to prove my innocence. I was also assured that it wouldn’t affect my chances for promotion. Well, it now appears it has adversely affected my promotion opportunities.
“Is there anything I can do at this point, such as going before an arbitrator or seeking a handwriting analysis? Was there something I could have done at the time of the dispute?”
A: “Misrepresentations about you are certainly improper. The problem is proving that the accusations were made intentionally without a proper basis in fact. Your manager may also claim immunity from liability because of a ‘managerial privilege’ to express an opinion to other management personnel and to you about his perceptions of your performance.
“Evaluate how reasonable the accusations are. Was there anyone else who had a reason to enter a false signature on an enrollment form? Were the commissions for the enrollment going solely to you? Was it signed on a date that you were working there?
“You can certainly take a copy of the enrollment form to your own handwriting expert and do an evaluation, but the company is not required to comply with your request for a handwriting analysis. Your results might help soften the attitude of your supervisors, however.
“Evaluate if this, in fact, has affected your promotion opportunities. Are you better qualified than other candidates who are getting promotions? Review your company’s grievance procedure. Is there an internal dispute resolution process that you can use?
“Balance your desire to ‘clear yourself’ with the possible antagonism that you may cause your supervisors. Your quest for better job security may backfire.”