How to deal with retaliation after reporting sexual harassment

If you experienced sexual harassment at work, you deserve to report it without facing consequences. Yet, if you disclosed your harasser’s behavior to your supervisor or a human resources representative, you may have faced discipline instead. Many workplaces perpetuate a culture that condones, tolerates or encourages sexual harassment. In these spaces, female workers who report incidents will often face retaliation.

Recognizing retaliation

Retaliation is any adverse action against someone who reports workplace misconduct. Up to 75% of harassment victims experience retaliation for their disclosure. A similar percentage of harassment complaints go unreported, many due to fear of backlash.

To meet the threshold of retaliation, your employer’s actions must interfere with your ability to perform your duties in a reasonable manner. You may be the victim of retaliation if you:

  • Received a poor performance review after reporting your harasser
  • Faced a transfer or demotion as a result of your complaint
  • Endured further harassment or mistreatment by other colleagues
  • Faced impediments in performing your job
  • Experienced termination or threats of dismissal for disclosing the harassment

Protections from retaliation

If you work for a company with over 15 employees, sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This title protects you from retaliation, too. And it mandates proper investigation of your claim as well. Yet, your employer may find a way around it. If your employer punishes you for reporting harassment, you may consider filing a civil suit against them. But you may work for a business that employs between 4 and 14 people. In this case, the New Mexico Human Rights Act protects you from retaliation if you make a harassment complaint. It also safeguards you from retaliation if you pursue a civil suit, too.

As a victim of sexual harassment and employer retaliation, you may feel powerless and voiceless. But these behaviors are worth fighting back against. Working with a civil rights attorney can help you stand up for your rights and find a constructive path forward.