If I complain about sexual harassment at work, will I be fired?

While there are thousands of sexual harassment reports to either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each year, many incidents of sexual harassment go unreported. There are different reasons why someone might choose not to report sexual harassment, and a common reason is a fear of losing their jobs.

While it is natural to worry about possibly getting fired for complaining of sexual harassment, it is important to know that the law is on your side. The law specifically prohibits employers from terminating employees who complain of harassment. In fact, the law prohibits any type of retaliation against an employee in this situation.

When are you protected?

If you were the victim of harassment and reported the conduct to your employer, you are protected from retaliation. This is true whether you filed a formal complaint with your human resources department or simply mentioned your concerns to a manager informally.

Victims are not the only ones covered under anti-retaliation laws, however. Employees who report that someone else is being harassed are protected, as is anyone who cooperates with or participates in a sexual harassment investigation or claim against an employer.

What if your employer fires you anyway?

Just because a law prohibits retaliation does not mean that your employer will comply with the law. In fact, many people are fired after reporting sexual harassment. If this happens, your first call should be to an employment law firm that handles sexual harassment cases.

The law gives you the right to file not only a sexual harassment claim against your employer but also a separate retaliation claim. Your lawyer will know how to file these claims and seek the legal relief you deserve. This might include compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, or even reinstatement to your job – if that is something you want.

Retaliation is more than termination of employment

Many people do not realize that they can suffer retaliation even if they do not lose their jobs. Retaliation involves much more than just termination, as any adverse action against you can constitute unlawful retaliation following a complaint of sexual harassment.

Some employers might subtly reduce someone’s hours or give them less desirable shifts. You might get denied a promotion or pay raise that you believe you deserved, or your performance reviews might be unjustifiably negative. If you complain of sexual harassment and your employer engages in any of this conduct, you have legal rights. Discuss a possible retaliation claim with an attorney right away.

Reporting sexual harassment

Many employees fear losing their jobs, or they simply do not want to cause “drama” or make waves at their jobs by complaining of sexual harassment. Always remember that you have the right to work free from harassment, and you are protected if you stand up for yourself. If you are hesitant to report harassment to your employer, speak with a lawyer about the best course of action today.

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