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3 forms of retaliation workers may face after reporting harassment

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Workplace Retaliation

Workplace harassment can manifest in a variety of forms. Someone might endure age-related mistreatment from coworkers that creates a hostile work environment. They might experience repeat sexual harassment from customers when they work in sales or a retail establishment.

Harassment and the refusal to address it in the workplace can be a frustrating form of discrimination. Technically, employees should not have to endure harassment or discrimination based on their protected characteristics. Their age, disability, sex and religion are not justification for others to mistreat them in the workplace.

Companies have an obligation to intervene when harassment occurs or may face allegations of discrimination from workers that they fail to protect. Unfortunately, sometimes when workers speak up asking for support, they face retaliation instead. The following are some of the forms of retaliation companies might enact against workers who report harassment.

Unfavorable transfers

The simplest solution for harassment targeting one employee might be to move them to a different shift, location or department. The problem with that solution is that it penalizes the person experiencing the misconduct instead of the perpetrators. If an organization transfers the person who reports harassment instead of addressing the issue with those harassing them, that could constitute unfair retaliation.

A suddenly hostile environment

Particularly in cases where a worker must report one other employee or a client for misconduct, a change in the overall workplace attitude could be a sign of retaliation. People in management or human resources sometimes share information that they should not with other team members and create an untenable work environment. Even if the company does punish the original offender, the worker may experience an increasingly hostile work environment where everyone mistreats them because of information that other workers should not know.

A sudden termination

Companies may fire a worker with a paper-thin excuse shortly after that employee reports harassment to human resources or management. Other times, the worker who spoke up about their unfortunate experiences might be one of many let go in a mass termination or layoff. The timing of a firing or layoff can be an indicator that a company inappropriately considered the worker’s protected activity of speaking up about harassment when deciding to fire them or include them in a layoff.

Retaliation against a worker who reports harassment is a violation of federal law and that worker’s rights. Fighting back against retaliation could lead to financial compensation and consequences for a company that mistreated an employee for doing the right thing.