Can I Be Terminated For Complaining About Harassment at Work?

January 8, 2019

Often times employees are hesitant to bring up issues regarding workplace harassment for fear of retaliation. Employees sacrifice a lot to establish their careers and they rely on those careers to provide for their families.  Accordingly, the idea of being retaliated against due to well intentioned complaints is often to big a risk for employees.

Thankfully, the law has put in place many protections for those very employees. Both federal and state law provide that it is illegal to retaliate against an employee for complaining of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. As an employee, it is important to be aware of these protections if a situation arises where you feel as though you are being retaliated against.

One of the main sources of law that provides protection from retaliation in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The harassment

Definition and Elements of Retaliation

Retaliation occurs when an employer or supervisor takes adverse action against an employee for voicing a complaint or participating in an investigation.

It is strictly illegal for an employer to retaliate against any of their employees or applicants for employment because of their complaints to the employers illegal conduct or because they cooperate in an investigation against the employer.

It is not uncommon for cases of harassment to give rise to retaliation cases. Often times employers against whom a claim of discrimination or harassment have been filed take adverse action against any individuals who opposed the unlawful acts or assisted in an investigation of those unlawful acts.

It is important to note, even though these two claims (discrimination and retaliation) arise together, the success of the retaliation claim is not contingent on the success of the discrimination claim. This means that a retaliation claim can still be successful even though the discrimination claim it stemmed from was not.

What Should I Do If I Fired for Complaining About Harassment?

Generally, if an employee is retaliated against for complaining about harassment the workplace, he or she has 180 days to file an administrative claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC is a U.S. Government agency that is responsible for making sure federal anti-retaliation laws are being enforced. Filing a claim with the EEOC will prompt an independent investigation. It is important to note that the EEOC may contact your employer or co-workers. Further, EEOC officers may make site visits to the workplace and conduct witness interviews.

What Remedies are Available to Me If I am Wrongfully Terminated?

A common remedy used in wrongful termination cases is that of reinstatement. An employer who terminates an employee for an illegal reason such as complaining about harassment, may be compelled by the court to give that employee their job back if the employee so wishes.

Another remedy available to  wrongfully terminated employees is back pay. The purpose is back pay is to return the employee he or she was in prior to the wrongful termination. Generally, back pay includes the amount of money the employee lost from their termination to the present day.

Lastly, an employee can also receive monetary damages outside of back pay. Depending on the situation the wrongfully terminated employee can receive monetary compensation for emotional distress as well as other damages they have suffered because of the wrongful termination. In the most severe of cases, wrongfully terminated employees may also receive punitive damages as a form of punishment due to the egregiousness of the employer.

If you feel as though you’re a victim of retaliation you should consider finding an attorney who is experienced in labor law. If you feel as though you are being retaliated against by your employer, you should contact an attorney who has experience in labor and employment law. The laws governing retaliation are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice. Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.