It probably started small enough. You stepped in to the bathroom, only to have everyone else suddenly fall silent when they saw you. Obviously, you were the topic of conversation before you entered the room. Soon enough, people start leaving abusive sticky notes on your computer monitor or acting openly hostile to you at work.
A rumor started by someone else that you work with could eventually result in a very hostile work environment. Sadly, claims of inappropriate sexual activity can quickly make your workplace quite hostile. Women in particular are still subject to much more scrutiny about their personal life.
Claims of inappropriate relationships or behavior might be enough to permanently damage your professional reputation or make your co-workers openly hostile to you.
Employers need to push back against hostile and sexual gossip
Talking about co-workers, bosses and even clients is an inescapable part of workplace culture. However, some people weaponize workplace socialization to ostracize or bully someone else. They might make accusations that someone had an affair with their boss or a married colleague.
Even without evidence, those rumors could result in someone losing the respect of their co-workers or even facing malicious bullying. Employers obviously can’t curtail all gossiping, but they should have rules in place that limit how vicious people can become.
Additionally, if it starts to affect workplace morale or relationships, employers should step in to address the issue and penalize those who continue to behave inappropriately or spread malicious information.
If your employer doesn’t protect you from abuses that stem from such rumors, you may need to stand up for yourself and other workers who might face the same sort of harassment and discrimination. An experienced attorney can help.