If you learn that someone at work has accused you of breaking the company's rules, the next step is likely a meeting with your boss. Depending on the size the company, someone from the human resources department may also be present. This blog post addresses what is likely to happen next and how you should respond.
Collect information. It is common to suspend employees who have been accused. The suspension usually begins right after the first meeting with the employee. The suspension may be either with or without pay. In advance of that meeting, collect information that you or your attorney may need depending on what happens next. This includes the company's employee handbook and discipline policies. It also includes any documents, including emails and texts, that may be pertinent. Acting quickly to make copies of these documents is important because your rights to access the company network, or intranet may be cut off as soon as the suspension starts.
Ask questions. You may be told very little about the nature the accusations against you or the identity of the accuser or accusers. The company's reasons for keeping you in the dark may be because the accuser has requested to remain anonymous. Or the company may think it is advantageous to share as little information with you as possible. But do ask questions. Try to learn the rules that you are accused of violating and ask for a copy of any such rules. Ask who is going to be investigating the claim. Ask if you will have an opportunity to speak with the investigator. Ask if you will have the opportunity to suggest witnesses to the investigator who may be able to exonerate you. Ask about the timing of the investigation; when it will start and when it is likely to end.
Stay calm and be truthful. You may be inclined to lash out or act indignant about being accused. This is likely to backfire. It is usually better to stay calm, but be sure to refute any facts that the company has wrong. If you don't know the answer to questions raised at meeting, say so. Don't try to guess the answer. If there are documents that will help supply the answer, tell the company about them.
Recording the meeting. In Michigan, it is lawful to record a conversation or meeting without your employer's consent. But it is best to ask for permission. The employer has the right to refuse your request and recording the meeting without the employer's knowledge could be used as a reason for discipline (up to and including termination). If the company refuses to allow you to record the meeting, ask if you may have a co-worker present as a witness to take notes. If you are in a union, you likely have a right to have the union steward present at the meeting.
Creating a record. The employer may have someone present at the meeting to take notes. If so, ask if you will be given a copy of those notes. After the meeting has ended, create your own notes of what transpired (or confirm the notes taken by your witness). Send a follow-up email to the meeting participants that reflect the information presented at the meeting and summarize what took place.
While on suspension. The company may tell you not to have any contact with your co-workers during the period of your suspension. If so, ask what the company will be saying about your absence. Ask about any time sensitive projects that you are working on. Find out if you will be paid during the suspension and who your contact person will be if you have more questions after the meeting. Try to be productive while you are on the suspension. This would be a good time to discretely explore other employment opportunities. If you are terminated, call an employment lawyer to explore claims that may be raised against the company. Don't sign any documents that release the company from liability without talking with a lawyer first.
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