How Women Can Fight Back Against Retaliation

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment cases were up 13.6% in 2018—probably because of increased awareness driven by the #MeToo movement.

In a way, that’s good news. It shows that women have higher expectations for treatment at work; they’re less willing to put up with bad behavior; and they feel more empowered to speak up.

Unfortunately, as a recent news story illustrates, many women are paying the price for this new-found empowerment in the form of negative—and often unlawful— repercussions. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on, and then discuss what you can do if you’ve been a victim of retaliation.

Retaliation on the Rise

So what happens after a woman speaks up about unfair treatment—after they file a claim?

That’s where the statistics get a little more disheartening. The EEOC reports that retaliation cases are by far the most common kind they handle—representing more than half of the organization’s caseload. And approximately three quarters of sexual harassment charges include retaliation.

A recent Vox article highlights the depth of the problem. The more people stand up against sexual harassment, the more likely they’ll get fired or retaliated against for doing so. 

The article makes the point that if women don’t gain more power in the workplace to go with their heightened willingness to report sexual harassment, then all this progress is for nothing. Women will continue to face retaliation for speaking up. 

Restaurant Industry is Leading the Pack

Some industries are more of a problem than others. For instance, only about 7% of people in the US work in the restaurant industry—but more than a third of EEOC sexual harassment filings come from that industry.

Research suggests that the practice of paying restaurant workers below minimum wage as long as their tips add up to the minimum contributes to a culture of harassment.

In those conditions, women’s paychecks are very dependent on smiling, nodding, and playing along—even in the face of inappropriate or abusive behavior. Making women’s paychecks less dependent on tips gives them the ability to take back some of their power.

Forced into Silence

Despite the fact that sex discrimination cases are rising, there are good reasons why some women choose to stay silent. Some are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements; it’s not unusual for employers to hold back a last paycheck in order to coerce an employee to sign.

Retaliation is the other big fear—and it’s not an unfounded one. Women who report sexual harassment face the prospect of being fired, demoted, given worse assignments, and even being subject to additional abuse.

However, it’s important for women (and all workers) to know that retaliation is unlawful and there are legal remedies for it. Federal law protects workers from being terminated, demoted, or subjected to other unfair treatment after they have complained about an unlawful behavior.

Call Us for a Free Consultation

Are you facing sex discrimination at work—or think you may be? Are you facing retaliation after standing up for yourself? If so, we can help.

Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com for a free, confidential consultation today.