Aaron Glaser, a male comic in New York who was banned from performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade (“UCB”) Theater in 2016 following complaints by multiple women of rape, is now suing UCB, contending that UCB’s actions were unlawful and constituted reverse gender discrimination. According to the complaint, on August 11, 2016, the comic was summoned to UCB’s main offices to discuss the complaints made against him. The comic alleges that he was only told that “in the past people feel as though you raped them” and that the conduct had occurred in 2010 or before.
Glaser is claiming that he was told that an investigation had occurred, but that he was never previously informed of its existence, interviewed, or allowed to explain his side of the story. He claims he was summarily terminated and banned from entering UCB’s premises, thereby preventing him from performing or taking classes offered by UCB. Finally, although he was told that he could appeal and that the complaints would remain confidential, just two days later, on August 13, 2016, someone posted on Twitter that he had been banned by UCB for raping multiple women. He contends that UCB leaked the information and that “Aaron Glaser is a rapist” went viral on the internet, resulting in him being dropped from every show he had booked, being blacklisted from working with comedy venues, and even being kicked out of his residence by his roommates, who were involved with UCB. In short, Glaser contends that UCB’s actions have ruined his life.
The comic alleges many faults with the supposed investigation conducted by UCB, including that: 1) the individuals in charge of the investigation lacked any training on how to conduct the investigation; 2) UCB lacked adequate procedures for handling sexual assault allegations; 3) he was not given an opportunity to refute the allegations; and 4) he was never informed of how the employer reached its conclusions.
UCB has not yet responded to Glaser’s allegations.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Although the #MeToo movement is expected to result in an increase in harassment complaints against companies who employ alleged harassers, this case represents yet another way that companies may find themselves targets of legal action. Here, Glaser has accused UCB of going too far in the other direction, pointing to a mantra UCB allegedly followed to “believe all women” as proof of gender bias against men. Although the exact nature of UCB’s investigation is not yet known, this case illustrates the importance of companies conducting a thorough and fair investigation into all workplace complaints. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently provided recommended guidelines on workplace harassment and investigations here.
With respect to workplace investigations, employers should be sure to interview all appropriate witnesses (preferably in person), give the accused a chance to tell his/her side of the story, review all relevant documents, and take any other necessary steps, such as taking pictures and visiting the worksite, in order to reach a fair and reasonable conclusion. The investigator will necessarily need to make credibility determinations and factual conclusions, which should be documented in writing. The parties should be informed of the results of the investigation, and if harassment is found to have occurred, the employer must take appropriate remedial steps to end the harassment and deter future harassment. Given the complexities of issues involved, employers are recommended to contact legal counsel early on in the process, especially when allegations of sexual harassment and/or discrimination are involved. While an employer cannot eliminate the potential of a lawsuit, conducting a thorough and fair workplace investigation is critical to avoiding liability for sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims. Please contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group if you have any questions about your harassment and discrimination policies or questions about how to conduct an appropriate workplace investigation.