You’d think that with all the increased attention given to sexual harassment over recent years that workplaces wouldn’t see it as frequently. But that simply isn’t the case. It seems like sexual harassment continues to pervade nearly every workplace in America, including business here in the Oakland area.
Although sexual harassment is more than enough to cause physical and emotional turmoil, the damage doesn’t stop there. While your employer likely has procedures in place to report harassing behavior so that it can be curtailed as quickly as possible, all too often, employers don’t do enough to protect their employees. In fact, in many instances employers use the complaint as a triggering event to take action against you, such as demoting you, placing you in a less-favorable position or even firing you. This can lead to significant financial losses.
How does a complaint lead to retaliation?
Simply put, in many cases, employers are afraid that victims of sexual harassment will cause more problems for them. They worry that these victims may go public in a way that affects their public image and the goodwill that they’ve build with their customers, and they worry that ongoing complaints could rise to the level of litigation. To try to keep victims like you silent, they might look to see if they can silence you by getting rid of you. This often constitutes illegal workplace retaliation.
They can’t come out and say that they’re taking action against you because you complained about sexual harassment, though. Instead, they’re going to try to cloak their decision in the guise of performance and quality control. Your employer will probably indicate that your performance hasn’t lived up to expectations or that you engaged in some sort of behavior that requires them to take an adverse employment action against you. They might twist the facts, make false statements, or even fabricate evidence to make you look like a bad employee.
As stressful as that can be, don’t shy away from confronting your employer. Their aggressive and retaliatory tactics are illegal, and they need to be held accountable for them.
So, what should you do when you’re subjected to harassment?
Regardless of how you feel about your employer, you should make sure you report harassing behavior to them. Just make sure that you’re documenting your efforts and how your employer responds. Also, retain any communications that you receive from your supervisor or co-workers that demonstrates your competency in your position, as well as any positive performance appraisals. This will make it harder for your employer to demonstrate that you were failing to live up to your performance competencies and goals.
It’s also beneficial to talk to your co-workers about any harassing behavior that they’ve observed or witnessed. This can help show a culture where harassment is tolerated and supported, which will make any legal arguments pertaining to retaliation even stronger.
Also, if you end up experiencing a negative employment action, you’ll want to be sure to track any damages that befall you. While this might include lost wages, it could also include any money that you spend to educate or train yourself for a new position, as well as any emotional harm that you experienced.
Preparing to take legal action
If you’re ready to hold your employer accountable for the sexual harassment and retaliation that you have experienced, you need to be prepared to enter the legal arena. This is no small thing, and the outcome of your case could have a tremendous impact on your future. That’s why discussing your case with an experienced legal professional may prove beneficial.
So, if you’re ready to act, don’t hesitate to seek out any support that you may need in pursuing your case.