Reporting sexual harassment can lead to employer retaliation

When you experience sexual harassment at work, whether it's at the hands of a coworker or manager, you have the right to push back against it. Typically, you want to start by advising your employer about your experiences of sexual harassment while at work, usually by speaking with a manager or a human resources representative.

Ideally, your employer will take the complaint seriously, perform an investigation into the claims and address the issue with the perpetrators. Proper actions could include a write-up and mandatory sensitivity or harassment training or even termination if the harassment is serious enough. Unfortunately, some employers choose to punish those experiencing harassment instead of those engaging in harassing and dehumanizing behaviors. Doing so may be illegal, but that might not stop your employer from retaliating against you.

Employer retaliation is a very common issue in harassment cases

The higher ranking the person harassing you is, the more likely you might be to experience retaliation for reporting inappropriate behavior. Whether the individual (or multiple people) in question are directly soliciting sexual favors or creating a hostile work environment, you shouldn't have to put up with harassment of any form.

If your employer does not discipline the offender(s), you should be on the lookout for signs of retaliation. Sometimes, it's subtle. Your complaint could get leaked to other staff members, resulting in everyone treating you poorly all the time.

Other times, the retaliation could be more direct. You could find yourself receiving fewer shifts or hours at work. You could also receive worse shifts or fewer leads for sales, depending on your position. In some cases, you could end up demoted or transferred to another position, while your harasser remains in the same department and position. In extreme cases, you could end up with lower pay or even fired from your job as a result of reporting harassment.

Document as much of the issue as you can to protect yourself

Ideally, before you ever approach human resources or management about the harassment you've experienced, you've already taken steps to document what's happening. Screenshots of inappropriate messages, printed emails with questionable content or even just a carefully maintained journal of each inappropriate interaction could support your claim when you make your report.

Including names, dates, times and details can help substantiate claims of harassment in the workplace. You should also document every attempt to report or address the workplace harassment, as well as the responses from human resources or management. If your performance hasn't changed, but you suddenly start getting written up or reproached for how you perform your job, your employer could be trying to build a case for your termination.

Having detailed records can help you when you make a report to your employer. It can also help you seek legal recourse if your employer chooses to retaliate against you instead of disciplining your harasser(s).