When a public figure is accused of sexual misconduct by a victim who didn’t immediately come forward, the skeptical question is always the same: “Why didn’t she (or he) say something until now?” But with even a cursory understanding of how cases like this usually go, the answer is obvious.
Victims who come forward often aren’t believed. And in the context of workplace sexual harassment, it is very common to be punished simply for telling the truth. This was recently confirmed by an analysis of online requests made to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund over the past two years. An analysis of more than 3,300 reported cases of sexual harassment found that victims also faced retaliation more than 70 percent of the time.
The consequences of speaking up
Retaliation in employment is any act of unlawful discrimination levied against an employee for engaging in a protected activity, including reporting workplace harassment. Retaliatory actions can include any or all of the following:
- Loss of shifts or a deliberate schedule change to undesirable shifts (like being forced to work overnight shifts after only working days)
- Reduction in pay or demotion
- Additional harassment
- Social ostracization at work
- Negative performance reviews that are inconsistent with your actual performance or with previous reviews
- Being fired
- Being blacklisted in your industry after being fired
Harassment and retaliation are bad for everyone
The harms that victims of harassment and retaliation face are obvious. These acts of mistreatment often create significant stress, mental health issues, lower workplace morale and even physical symptoms related to everything previously mentioned. They also leave workers in a precarious financial position if they get fired or blacklisted.
What too many companies fail to realize, however, is that these unacceptable behaviors are also bad for business. Workplaces that condone or promote harassment and retaliation result in terrible employee morale, weak company loyalty, mistrust of supervisors and superiors and exposure to legal liability. Even if employers didn’t care about the wellbeing of employees, they should at least care about the company’s bottom line.
You can fight back by seeking outside help
If you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, retaliation or both, you likely haven’t found any support within your own company. Therefore, it’s time to contact an outside legal advocate who will aggressively fight for your rights and interests. An experienced employment law attorney can help you hold your employer accountable for failing to prevent/address harassment and retaliation and fight for the financial compensation you need and deserve.