How to Respond to Non-Contact Sexual Crime Allegations in the Workplace

If you’ve been falsely accused of non-contact sexual crimes at work, that accusation will almost invariably be investigated by your organisation’s Human Resources department – and possibly other bodies, depending on the progress of the complaint and the seriousness of the alleged offence.

All workplaces in the UK are required to have robust procedures in place ensuring that all investigations are undertaken thoroughly, fairly and responsibly. However, this does not prevent the situation from being highly stressful for those involved.

DPP Law employs highly experienced solicitors who specialise in non-contact sexual crimes. In this article, we explore how to respond to allegations of non-contact sexual offences in your workplace.

What are non-contact sexual crimes?

Precisely what are non-contact sexual offences? Legal transgressions of this kind involve an alleged perpetrator engaging an alleged victim in any form of sex-related activity against the latter’s will without any physical contact being involved.

Examples may include indecent exposure, voyeurism, exposure to pornography without consent and verbal sexual harassment.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the Crime Survey for England and Wales has recorded around 700,000 instances of sexual assault against people between 16 and 59 years of age over the last year. The official number of crimes of this kind has almost tripled since 2013.

This increase may be attributed in some part to improvements within the process of police reporting as well as a rising level of willingness to report on the part of victims. However, large numbers of sexual assaults still go unreported, suggesting that the real number is much higher.

What should I do if I’m falsely accused of a non-contact sexual crime at work?

Sexual crimes of all kinds can have a profound negative effect on their victims. This is why any sexual offence – in the workplace or otherwise – should be treated extremely seriously by those investigating.

For this reason, if you become aware that you are being falsely or mistakenly accused of a non-contact sexual crime, it is vital that you take appropriate action as soon as possible.

Your first step should always be to make contact with solicitors specialising in sexual crime allegations. You should not make any statements prior to doing so.

Legal experts of this kind will be able to advise you throughout the investigation, helping you to gather the strongest evidence possible and, if required, defend you in a court of law or at a workplace tribunal.

Should I respond to the accusation directly or wait for HR to approach me?

Your HR department is required to undertake a fair and balanced investigation, taking all evidence into account and approaching all parties involved in a timely manner.

The act of responding immediately and directly to rumours of assault may work against you, as you will not be approached by HR until an official complaint has been made. Pre-empting this may cause you to appear guilty or defensive.

Instead, we highly recommend collecting as much tangible evidence as you can – including emails, other electronic messages and CCTV footage where possible.

Once an investigation begins, this evidence should be shared with your HR department, ideally from both your personal and workplace email addresses in a message with a subject line that clearly states that its contents constitute evidence for your case. If you have a case number, this should be included.

Your evidence should also be backed up in a separate location so that it cannot be lost or erased. Your solicitor will assist you in this process.

How can I protect my reputation during the investigation process?

Your workplace’s HR department is required to keep all communications related to a sexual assault allegation confidential throughout an investigation – with the exception of situations where the police become involved. In these cases, they may be required to share their collected evidence and any relevant correspondence with the authorities.

The best thing that you can do to protect your reputation while being investigated for a non-contact sexual crime is to only discuss the situation with your solicitor, the HR worker assigned to the case and any other investigating authorities.

What if the accusation is based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation?

Sexual assault can be a difficult matter to investigate, as there is the potential for the misinterpretation of the intentions of individuals involved.

If you feel that this is the case in your particular situation, you should work with your solicitor to collect as much evidence as you can to clearly show that there was no ill-intent on your part. This will help all investigating bodies to appreciate that any perceived wrongdoing on your part was as a result of a misunderstanding.

What are my rights if the investigation results in disciplinary action or termination?

If you feel that the investigation was not undertaken appropriately or fairly, you may have recourse to make a claim to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal or unfair disciplinary action. Your legal advisor will be able to assist you throughout this process.

Will police be involved in accusations of a non-contact sexual crime?

Police involvement in investigations of this kind will depend on the exact situation and the actions of those involved. If the accuser has decided to make an official police report, then it is highly likely that you will need to communicate with the authorities and provide statements and evidence.

You should never do this without the advice of a specialist solicitor.

Next steps

If you are concerned that you may be accused of a non-contact sexual offence in the workplace, you should get in touch with the legal experts at DPP Law as soon as possible. We can help you to collect strong evidence to support your innocence, accompany you to meetings, interviews, hearings and tribunals and defend you in a court of law.