One of your most basic rights is the right to a harassment-free workplace. You shouldn’t have to worry about co-workers making inappropriate jokes or unwanted advances, nor should you feel pressured into certain activities simply to advance your career.
In theory, when you speak up about sexual harassment, you have protection from retaliation under federal law. In other words, your employer can’t just fire you for asserting your basic rights. However, retaliation is often more subtle than just a summary termination shortly after someone files a complaint.
What are some of the ways that your employer could unfairly retaliate against you?
The career consequences affect you and not the inappropriate individual
Reporting sexual harassment should not result in negative workplace consequences. You should not have to undergo major career changes because of someone else’s misconduct on the job.
If the company has a policy of separating those involved in the sexual harassment complaints, then the one who moves to a different department, shift or facility should be the person who engaged in misconduct, not the individual who reported it.
The company’s attitude toward you becomes markedly less positive
You’ve worked for years to get the best shifts or establish yourself as a dependable employee. Unfortunately, some companies will change the way they treat those who speak up about misconduct.
You might find yourself receiving fewer hours on the schedule, fewer sales leads or less desirable shifts if your pay largely depends on gratuities. You may also notice that the company no longer gives you first consideration to pick up dropped shifts or new projects like they did before. Cumulatively, those little changes can be major setbacks for your career development.
Your performance reviews change
One of the biggest indicators that a business no longer properly values the work you do is that they provide a critical performance review despite no change to your overall job functions or performance. Poor performance reviews without changing performance to justify that could be a way for a company to hide their retaliatory decisions about promotions and raises or even terminations.
The inverse of this is the practice of writing someone up frequently after they make a complaint. If the company enforces rules they didn’t before or singles you out for rule enforcement, they may be building a paper trail to cover their retaliatory firing.
Understanding that retaliation after reporting sexual harassment can be quite subtle can help people identify warning signs of employee misconduct.