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What Can You Do About Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

woman sit in the corner and take metoo billboard with against sexual harassment
By Andrew Leonatti on October 20, 2020 10:01 AM

The #MeToo movement has led to a broad awareness of just how widespread sexual harassment and sexual assault are. Since the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced three years ago, countless women across the world have come forward to share their stories.

Unfortunately, many continue to pay a professional price for speaking up. A new study shows that in the time since the #MeToo movement caught fire, more than 70% of people reporting workplace sexual harassment faced retaliation for doing so.

An Alarming Study

The study, conducted by the National Women's Law Center, which runs the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, looked at more than 3,300 online requests for legal help from the organization between January 2018 and April 2020.

It shows that despite the increase in awareness of sexual harassment, old attitudes and toxic workplace cultures don't just disappear. Some of the study's key findings include:

  • More than half of the victims said the harassment came from someone they reported to.
  • More than a third said the harasser faced no punishment.
  • More than a third of those facing retaliation were fired, and one-fifth were given poor performance reviews.

Sharyn Tejani, the director of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, said the pandemic is likely making the problem worse because people will be less likely to report harassment for fear of losing their jobs during a recession.

What Is Retaliation?

Many people are not sure whether they are victims of retaliation. It occurs whenever your work takes negative actions against you for reporting sexual harassment or any form of discrimination. Retaliation also covers any other witnesses who participate in the investigation.

Retaliation can appear in many forms, including:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Poor performance reviews
  • Being denied a raise or having pay reduced
  • Having hours reduced
  • Receiving different treatment from coworkers with similar roles and responsibilities, such as being excluded from projects

The Law Is on Your Side

The result of your complaint — whether your work ultimately finds the harasser committed the acts — does not affect whether your employer can retaliate against you. If you come forward, they must respect your legal rights.

But proving that there is a connection between your complaint and the retaliation can be difficult. Many people are afraid to speak up because they "can't afford" to lose their job, especially during a pandemic that is causing so many job losses.

Many employment lawyers who handle cases like these accept cases on a contingency basis, meaning you would not owe anything unless you ultimately recover financial compensation for your employer's misdeeds. There is minimal financial risk in speaking with a lawyer about your case, and any lawyer you speak to must keep your conversations confidential.

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