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I am scared to report sexual harassment because I fear that I will be retaliated against by my employer. What should I do?

Workers often fear that their employer will take negative employment action if they file a complaint for sexual harassment. However, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting unwelcome harassment.

If you are afraid of reporting sexual harassment at work, be aware that there are laws designed to protect your rights. Standing up for your right not to be discriminated against is considered protected activity under state and federal law. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for doing so. This means that your employer would be breaking the law if they fired you, demoted you, lowered your wages or passed you up for a promotion because you filed a sexual harassment complaint.

Workers are also protected from retaliation under the following federal laws:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Rehabilitation Act
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA)
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

For more information about retaliation, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/facts-retal.cfm.

It is also helpful to be aware of the types of retaliation that can take place in the workplace. Retaliation does not just mean termination, but can also be any form of negative employment action. Examples include demotion, verbal abuse or harassment, moving a worker to a less desirable shift, poor performance reviews or other more subtle negative behavior or action.

You are protected from any kind of retaliatory behavior from your employer. When you report sexual harassment, your employer is required by law to respond quickly with a thorough, objective investigation followed by appropriate action should they find your complaint to be valid. Should your employer fail to respond appropriately to your complaint, or if they retaliate against you for filing a complaint, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or speak with an experienced employment attorney.

If you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, talk to a qualified employment law attorney to help you determine your rights and how to proceed with your claim. For more information on this, please visit the Strong Advocates Sexual Harassment at Work webpage.

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