Sexual harassment - the postscript

Lionel Kohn does not regret standing up to his false accuser

My story, published in the March 1999 edition, has a new ending. In that article I told of how a female employee alleged physical, sexual and psychological harassment by me (in response to a performance issue). Both the Workers Compensation psychologist and my organisation's grievance process cleared me, completely; nonetheless she proceeded to litigate. I told of how I felt screwed to the wall by this person.

Well things changed. In the end, I took a stance, because being 'cleared' wasn't enough. I had rights too, particularly as a senior manager, and I wanted to exercise these - for me and for all managers. I timed my actions to coincide with her court hearing, which she withdrew days before the hearing date (due to stress apparently).

In the intervening 15 months I had dealings with the Anti Discrimination Board, the NSW Ombudsman, the local MP, unions, lawyers and the Attorney General. It was the latter, who wrote saying: It is important that your procedure makes it clear that while the person accused of causing a problem may be disciplined if the investigation supports the complaint, the complainant may also be disciplined if they make malicious or untrue allegations.

So I placed a very detailed complaint with my CEO (a staunch feminist if ever there was one), alleging my employee had not only lied in what she had alleged against me but in fact had fabricated evidence as well.

Three months later and the CEO's closure letter stated: I accept the validity of your complaint...Believe me, this letter meant more to me than the one clearing me of the original allegations. And now the appropriate legal team have a copy on file should the employee ever decide to reinstate her workers compensation case (which apparently one can, any time).

The moral? By taking a stance - and yes, putting myself on the line with the CEO - our organisation now has a much reformed grievance process which cannot be used for management bashing. No other manager will have to go through my ordeal. Taking that stance was important for me, for all sorts of reasons. And particularly important, I argue, for male managers.

As the universe would have it, just last week I found myself on a recruitment panel, interviewing this very person for a position similar to the one she stormed out of some 18 months previously. No, she didn't get the job, not because of any retribution on my part, but because the panel viewed her as not acceptable to the needs of the position. It felt kind of nice nonetheless!

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