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What constitutes retaliation after a sexual harassment charge?

Many people who make a complaint to their employer worry about retaliation by that employer. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits retaliation against employees who are asserting their rights to be in a safe workplace, free from discrimination.

Employers are allowed to discipline or terminate employees if the motivation is non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory. The facts of each individual case are unique and should be investigated to determine if retaliation occurred. Learn to recognize what could possibly constitute retaliation under the EEOC's rules: 

  • An employee reprimand or a low performance evaluation
  • A transfer to a less desirable position
  • Verbal or physical abuse
  • Threats of making a report to the authorities
  • Increased scrutiny at work
  • Changing a work schedule to make it more difficult for the employee to handle other responsibilities
  • Spreading rumors
  • Treating a family member negatively 

Retaliation is not the only motivation for such acts, but after making a sexual harassment charge against an employer, it is highly possible that you might experience any of these situations. Though it is not legally permitted, retaliation is a coping mechanism that managers use to alleviate their own discomfort associated with the perceived injustice of a sexual harassment accusation. 

The office culture can often exacerbate retaliation. When there is an overly authoritarian management culture or a lack of attention paid to sexual harassment, retaliation is more likely to occur. It is not right, but it is up to the employer to create a place in which retaliation is not accepted, and some organizations fall down on this important duty.

Understanding the psychological reasons behind retaliation can help you know what to do when retaliation occurs. The best course of action is to document everything that happens. You may need to discuss your case with an experienced attorney to help you find the best solution for your situation. Sexual harassment is very serious, but not every manager takes it seriously. Take action to make your workplace a safe place to work.

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