Standing up against sexual harassment in the workplace is a protected activity. It’s your right to expect that your workplace be free of sexual harassment, and your employer isn’t legally allowed to retaliate against you for reporting it.
Despite this, unfortunately, retaliation isn’t unusual. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s the most commonly-alleged type of discrimination among federal-sector jobs and cases.
Types of Protected Activities
Under the law, you are supposed to be able to do the following things without any threat of retaliation from your employer:
- File a charge of sexual harassment
- Be a witness in a sexual harassment investigation or lawsuit
- Talk to your supervisor, or anyone else, about your concerns regarding sexual harassment
- Answer questions during an internal investigation
- Turn down sexual advances
- Intervene to protect someone else from sexual harassment
This is not a complete list. You should be able to take any action to oppose sexual harassment, as long as you are acting under the reasonable belief that the behaviors in question constitute sexual harassment under EEOC law.
Of course, employers can terminate or discipline you during an investigation, as long as the reason has nothing to do with your sexual harassment case. But employers are not supposed to take actions that might discourage others from speaking up about sexual harassment in the future.
See Also: What Counts as Sexual Harassment?
Examples of Retaliation
If your employer does any of the following things after you’ve reported sexual harassment in the workplace, it may constitute retaliation:
- Reprimanding you or giving you an unusually low performance evaluation
- Transferring you to a less-desirable location
- Demoting you
- Subjecting you to verbal or physical abuse
- Threatening to report you to the authorities (for instance, reporting your immigration status)
- Subjecting you to increased scrutiny on the job
- Retaliating against a friend or family member
- Spreading false rumors about you
- Deliberately making your life at work more difficult (such as changing your schedule on purpose to conflict with responsibilities outside of work)
Do You Believe Your Employer Is Retaliating Against You?
If you’ve recently spoken up about sexual harassment in the workplace and you’ve noticed negative consequences at work, your employer may be retaliating.
Retaliation can be subtle. If you suspect it’s happening to you, talk to an employment lawyer. A knowledgeable lawyer can be your champion, defend your interests, and help you take your case to court.
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