Women (and men) who face sexual harassment in the workplace often remain silent because they fear speaking out could cost them their jobs, jeopardize their future career prospects, or make their work environments worse. In many instances, their fears are warranted.
Even though it’s illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee for asserting their rights under the law, far too many victims end up paying a price for coming forward.
What Constitutes Retaliation?
Retaliation is any adverse employment action taken by an employer in response to a complaint of sexual harassment in the workplace. To establish grounds for a lawsuit, the action must have a negative impact on the person’s employment.
Common acts of workplace retaliation may include:
- Job termination
- Salary reduction
- Denial of a raise
- Unfavorable performance review
- Job reassignment
- Less desirable schedule
- Write-ups or reprimands
- Exclusion from staff activities
- A sudden increase in workload, denial of breaks, vacations or benefits.
- Management hostility
- Verbal or physical abuse
Reporting Sexual Harassment and Retaliation is a Legally Protected Right
It is illegal for an employee to be discriminated against because they have complained about discrimination or have reported wrongdoing at the job (whistleblowing).
Employees in Texas are protected from retaliation under several state and federal laws including:
- Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
An employer can still be held liable for retaliation even if the original complaint of sexual harassment cannot be proven. All that is required is that the employee had a good faith belief they were being unlawfully discriminated against.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most frequently filed charge filed with the agency.
To establish a claim of retaliation, you must be able to prove:
- You were engaged in an activity protected under the law
- i.e. filed an internal complaint with an employer to challenge discrimination or harassment; filed a charge with a civil rights agency like the EEOC, or participated in an employment-related discrimination lawsuit or investigation as a witness.
- Your employer knew you made a complaint
- Your employer took action against you
- There is a causal link between your sexual harassment complaint and your employer’s adverse actions
What To Do If You’re Facing Retaliation
Gather Evidence and Document Experience – Document any interactions or incidents that may be deemed retaliatory in nature. Keep copies of threatening notes, emails, performance reviews, etc that can back up your claim that you were retaliated against.
Make a Formal Complaint of Retaliation: If your retaliation is limited to a certain employee, you should report it to your HR officials per the internal complaint procedures in your employee handbook. This will be an addendum to your pending harassment claim. If you’ve already filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or a state agency, you should contact the investigator assigned to your case and let them know you believe your employer is exhibiting retaliatory behavior.
If you are a victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment, contact the Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Bevel Gould: If you believe you have suffered negative treatment after filing a sexual harassment complaint, it’s critical to contact a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible. We are pleased to offer a free initial consultation to learn more about your situation and explain your legal options in further detail. Call us today at (214) 580-2555