Can I Lose My Job After Complaining About Sexual Harassment?

April 10, 2019

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers are prohibited from retaliating against their employees. When an employer fires, demotes or refuses to hire a person as a result of that employees complaints, the employer can be held accountable for violating Title VII.

The purpose of this blog is to make you familiar with retaliation law in the United States and what steps you can take to rectify it.

When Does Retaliation Occur?

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.

As such, if an employee is being sexually harassed in the workplace and they complain about it, their employer cannot take adverse employment actions against them because of their complaints.

Establishing a Retaliation Claim

To establish a claim of retaliation an employee must meet three elements. 1) The employee engages in a protected activity; 2) Adverse action is taken against the employee; 3) a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action.

The EEOC states, “The EEO laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.  Asserting these EEO rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms.  For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:

  • filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
  • answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
  • requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.”

See: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/retaliation.cfm

This list is not exhaustive but provides some examples of what constitutes engaging in protected activity.

The employee must also be able to show that they suffered some sort of adverse action due to their complaints. Typically, adverse action could include termination, demotion or even a pay cut.

Lastly, the employee would need to show that the adverse action was taken a result of the employee engaging in a protected activity. This is generally most difficult thing to prove in a retaliation claim.

Filing a Claim with the EEOC

If an employee feels as though they are being retaliated again in the work place then they should seek to file a claim with the EEOC. The EEEOC will conduct an independent investigation into the employees claim and determine whether or not they can be substantiated. The EEOC may contact supervisors and co-workers due interview them regarding the employees complaints.  The EEOC will then provide the employee with a Right to Sue Notice, which allows the employee to pursue a lawsuit against the employer in court..

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.