Can My Employer Punish Me for Complaining About Sexual Harassment?

You have rights as an employee in California. These include the right to a safe workplace that is free from sexual harassment, as well as the right to report and complain about harassment without penalty. If your boss is punishing you for complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination, this is a violation of your rights as a worker. In addition to filing a sexual harassment claim in Los Angeles, you may be able to take legal action against your employer for what is known as retaliation.

What Is Employer Retaliation?

Retaliation is an illegal action by an employer. It refers to punishing or penalizing an employee for coming forward about an issue in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, discrimination or a safety hazard. Retaliation can refer to any adverse employment action that occurs as a result of filing a complaint or going to human resources with a problem.

Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment is a separate offense under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII protects employees and job applicants from being punished for making a charge, testifying, assisting or participating in any charge of unlawful discrimination or harassment. If you are taking legal action against your workplace for sexual harassment, be sure to also include any retaliatory behaviors by your employer, as this is also a punishable offense.

Common Examples of Retaliation

Retaliation can come in many forms. Any negative or adverse employment action you experience after complaining about sexual harassment could be a sign of retaliation. To prove retaliation, you or your California employment lawyer must have evidence that you suffered an adverse employment action that would dissuade a reasonable worker from filing or participating in a charge of discrimination or harassment.

Common examples of retaliation in the workplace include:

  • Reprimanding or berating the worker
  • Giving a low-performance evaluation
  • Firing or demoting the worker
  • Cutting a worker’s pay
  • Moving or relocating a worker
  • Giving the worker a worse schedule
  • Taking the worker off of special projects
  • Excluding the worker from group meetings
  • Making the worker’s job more difficult
  • Spreading false rumors
  • Bullying or harassing the worker

Retaliation can refer to an ultimate employment decision, such as wrongfully terminating an employee or cutting the worker’s pay, as well as any materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment. If you believe you are being unfairly and unlawfully punished for coming forward about sexual harassment in your workplace in Los Angeles, take steps to protect your rights.

What to Do if You Think You’re Being Retaliated Against

Before you file a complaint about sexual harassment, do your best to gather evidence and documentation that will support your claim, such as eyewitness statements. This can help strengthen your sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits against your employer. Continue documenting your experience, including writing down any examples of punishment or retaliation after you complain.

Go to your human resources department and describe the sexual harassment incident. Write down who you spoke to in the department and how they responded to your complaint. If your employer does not remedy the issue or you suspect retaliation, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). File a complaint for both violations of your rights. The EEOC can investigate your workplace and may penalize your employer if it finds evidence of one or more violations.

If you notice signs of retaliation after you complain about sexual harassment, consult with an attorney. A lawyer can help you file a claim not only for sexual harassment but also for retaliation. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your lost wages, emotional distress, legal fees, and other related losses. Contact an experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney at Mathew & George today for more information.