This is quite long-winded and I've tried my best to simplify it as much as possible. I'll clarify if needed.

Legal jurisdiction here is US and UK law (if there's a difference).

There are three scenarios here. "The Employee" is accused of sexual harassment in all three.

We need to take into account the following which apply for all scenarios:

  • The Employee is guilty of harassing their co-workers at Company A.
  • Any investigations conducted are done correctly and fairly.
  • The Employee is a publicly visible figure and a figure of authority having a management role.

Scenario 1 – Two Simultaneous Employers

The Employee is working for both Company A and B simultaneously. They are accused of harassing multiple co-workers. Company A's investigation finds them guilty and they are dismissed. Company B finds out after taking the Employee on as the allegations are made public by the victims.

Scenario 2 – Fired and then Hired

The Employee is accused of harassing multiple co-workers. Company A's investigation finds them Guilty and they are dismissed. They then get a job at Company B. After starting, B discovers this incident, although there are no grievances against the employee from co-workers at Company B and their disciplinary record at B is otherwise clean.

Scenario 3 – Allegations arise after Moving

The Employee leaves Company A to start a better job at Company B. Their disciplinary record is clean; i.e., no grievances were made against them before leaving Company A. After working at Company B for a while, former co-workers from A make a statement alleging that they were harassed by the Employee when they worked at A. Company B determines that this behaviour has not occurred with co-workers at Company B.

Can Company B dismiss the employee in any of these scenarios, even if they conduct an investigation concluding that the behaviour was not repeated while working with Company B? If they can, should they?

Does Company B have any obligation to investigate the employee's behaviour?

  • 1
    I think your question may be considered too broad. In the US may depend on whether the state has at-will employment. If there's a contract, is there a morals clause and how is it written?
    – mkennedy
    Sep 23, 2018 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


I am not knowledgeable about UK law, but since almost everywhere in the U.S. employment is at-will by default, in all three scenarios Company B is entitled to terminate the employee very easily. The assumption that the employee was accurately found guilty of harassment elsewhere precludes more interesting analyses where matters such as defamation and public policy are involved.

If the contract between the employee and Company B establishes that termination will be for good cause, the employee has only a mild chance of not being terminated for what he did in Company A. However, I say "mild chance" because in most cases Company B can reasonably argue that it seeks to protect its other employees and/or customers from the possibility that the employee's misconduct may occur in the current workplace. A very detailed analysis of the factual circumstances might be required for discerning whether Company B's decision to terminate the employee is merited.

Additionally, in cases where

The Employee is a publicly visible figure and a figure of authority having a management role

there could be a concern that the employee's misconduct elsewhere may harm the image of Company B.

  • A lot of this answer addresses prudence, but what if a company strictly seeks to avoid liability? Would the new employer have any liability if they don't fire someone for a clear case of harassment at a previous place of employment?
    – grovkin
    Apr 8, 2021 at 0:03
  • @grovkin I'm thinking strict liability could stem only from the employer's statutory or contractual obligations elsewhere (be it in contexts of subcontracting, subsidiaries, and/or unlicensed practice). For instance, the employer could be contractually required to provide the customer with personnel who has no history of harassment, perhaps the customer being an entity that helps victims of rape or which refuses to conduct business with entities that employ people with that history. Whereas the customer is driven by the criterion of prudence, the employer is under a contractual obligation. Apr 8, 2021 at 13:09

The second company would have two good reasons to fire the person: One, that they can anticipate that the employee will harrass other employees at company B as well, and two, that employing a publicly known harrasser will reflect badly on company B.

For reason one, that is hypothetical. Quite likely that the person learned their lesson. A talk with HR, that explains that harrassment isn't acceptable at company B, and that he won't be given the benefit of the doubt if anything happens, should be enough to avoid future repeats. So I don't think this would be in the UK a good reason for dismissal. (It depends on the situation, if an employee was harrassed, that's one thing, if an employee was sexually assaulted for example, that's a different matter where company B wouldn't take the risk. And big question: Did the employee lie to B or did he mislead them in his interview?).

  • 1
    At no point did the employee lie or otherwise be deceptive. I'm aware that it can be negligent if the company didn't bother to ask about why the employee was terminated. In scenario 1 and 3, the allegations are made after employment commences at Company B. I've upvoted this as it is a reasonable answer but as I'm a new user it won't show it. I would've marked this as an answer but another user answered it for the US and I can't select two answers.
    – Jamie
    Sep 29, 2018 at 17:48
  • @Jamie Not volunteering information that you know would be relevant is lying and being deceptive. You can't reasonably expect every employer to ask every candidate, "Did you sexually harass anyone at any recent previous job?". So the obligation to disclose has to be on the candidate to provide any information they know the employer would want, is entitled to, but would find inappropriate to ask about. You absolutely cannot plausibly argue that they weren't deceptive because they would have disclosed it had the employer merely asked in the interview. That's comically absurd. Apr 7, 2021 at 17:32
  • @DavidScwartz I would actually argue that the comedy is much richer in your suggestion than it is in Jamie's. Potential employers routinely ask uncomfortable questions. In fact, the interviewing process itself is regularly made to be more demanding than the job. In addition, it used to be standard (and may still be... I am not certain) to ask on employment applications whether the candidate has had any felony convictions in their past. That is equally uncomfortable to asking if there has been any sexual harassment accusations in their past.
    – grovkin
    Apr 8, 2021 at 8:10

Absent an employment contract or a union contract, employees in the U.S. are employed at-will. That means they can be fired for no reason and for any reason - as long as it is not a reason dis-allowed by state or federal law. Disallowed reasons include discrimination by race, sex, and national origin, for example. In some states, but not all of them, sexual orientation is also a dis-allowed reason.


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