Wrongfully Terminated After Reporting Sexual Harassment

What is Considered Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination happens when an employee has been fired illegally because the employer has violated employment law. For example, an employer cannot fire an employee based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or for having a disability. When it comes to being terminated for reporting sexual harassment, this comes under retaliation.

Retaliation and Sexual Harassment

Retaliation by an employer includes harassing, firing, demoting, or taking another unfavorable action against a worker based on his/her complaining about sexual harassment or being fired following a report made about sexual harassment.

The law states that a worker shouldn’t have to be concerned about the employer retaliating when a charge of sexual harassment has been filed by the employee.

There are other situations regarding sexual harassment that disallow the employer from retaliation by terminating an employee.

These come under the law called protected activities. You should be able to do the following things without fear of retaliation by your employer:

  • being a witness in an investigation or lawsuit in relation to sexual harassment;
  • talking to your supervisor, or anybody else, about sexual harassment issues;
  • answering questions in an internal investigation related to sexual harassment;
  • refusing to take part in sexual advances made by an employer;
  • intervening in order protect somebody else from being sexually harassed.

Standing up for oneself when subject to sexual harassment at work is a protected activity, so your employer isn’t legally entitled to retaliate, or terminate your employment if you report a case of sexual harassment.

Despite the law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has discovered that retaliation is commonplace in all different types of workplaces when it comes to complaining about sexual harassment.

You should be able to take action against sexual harassment as long as the act of sexual harassment comes within EEOC guidelines.

If while you are taking part in the sexual harassment investigation you take time off work for other reasons and your employer is not satisfied with your behavior you could be terminated but this shouldn’t be anything to do with the sexual harassment investigation.

If after reporting sexual harassment to your employer and s/he retaliates in any of the following ways this could provide you with the opportunity to file a complaint:

  • terminating your employment;
  • reprimanding you or presenting you with an evaluation showing poor performance;
  • transferring you to a worse job location;
  • demoting you;
  • being verbally or physically abusive towards you;
  • subjecting you to more on the job scrutiny;
  • retaliating against one of the members of your family or a friend;
  • the spreading of unfounded rumors about you;
  • deliberately ensuring your work environment life is more difficult like altering your work schedule knowing that it will bring about out-of-work conflicts.

Reporting Sexual Harassment Is Your Right

Because sexual harassment is prohibited under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you are legally entitled to report any type of sexual harassment even if it is just down to offensive remarks.

The main requirement before filing a complaint of retaliation by your employer after you have complained to the EEOC about sexual harassment is that the law only applies to employers who have at least 15 employees.

When you are in the process of reporting your employer for retaliating you should gather all the evidence that proves sexual harassment has taken place. This includes:

  • describing what your harasser did and where and when it happened;
  • providing names and contact details of witnesses to the harassment;
  • providing evidence that your productivity at work is not a reason for your employer to either retaliate or terminate your employment.

Speak with an Employment Law Attorney

If you consult an employment lawyer s/he will decide if the behavior of your employer gives you the right to file for compensation.

An experienced lawyer will go through your evidence that retaliation by your employer has taken place due to your complaint about the presence of sexual harassment in your workplace. Your lawyer may suggest mediation as a way of solving the problem or may suggest filing for compensation.

If your lawyer wins your case your employer may be required to provide compensation for your pain and suffering and may also be required to pay your legal fees and court costs.


Additional Resources