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How to investigate an accused serial sexual harasser

Jonathan J Shuster, Mark Handler
Statistics in Medicine 2019 March 21
The "MeToo#" movement has been instrumental in delineating the prevalence of alleged sexual harassment complaints in the workplace. In this article, we propose controlled scientific methods for statisticians and credibility assessment experts to jointly collaborate with human resource staff and/or attorneys to help evaluate claims by a class of accusers against an alleged serial harasser. When an accused falsely denies claims as lies, s/he may be guilty of libel/defamation. Hence, even if statutes of limitations for criminal prosecution may have expired, a timely civil suit could be mounted. It is critically important that these claims be scientifically evaluated to protect the accused from a conspiracy. Using a properly monitored controlled study and the latest credibility assessment methods, it is clear that even with a small number of accusers, a high-powered study is feasible to contribute civil level evidence for or against the accusations. However, if there are false accusers in the class, power would be greatly diminished, making exoneration a likely outcome. We illustrate a hypothetical example, where six honest accusers against an alleged serial harasser, X, and 16 controls, have 95% power at an exact one-sided P-value of 0.03, using Barnard's test (vastly superior to Fisher's exact conditional test).


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