Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to face sexual harassment or other types of inappropriate behavior on the job. Even more upsetting, those who attempt to report wrongdoing can face retaliation. Workers have lost jobs and promotions because they tried to stop the behavior. However, just like discrimination itself, retaliation in the workplace is illegal. Retaliation can take many forms, from increased harassment to demotion to termination.
Workers are often afraid to protest discrimination or sexual harassment or participate in an investigation because they worry they will face retaliation as a result. It is so common that it is the most frequently cited issue in discrimination complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2018, there were 76,418 charges received by the EEOC in total; 39,469 related to retaliation against workers that tried to stop discrimination. This means that over half of all of the complaints handled by the EEOC deal with workers facing unjust retaliation for attempting to improve their workplaces.
There are several steps that people can take to put a stop to retaliation or, at minimum, document what is occurring. Clear communication is important, including with managers believed to be responsible for the retaliation. Many companies have internal procedures to resolve disputes, especially when serious legal issues like harassment and discrimination are involved. Using these internal procedures can help workers to stop retaliatory behavior, especially when companies are concerned about potential legal liability.
Workers can also contact the EEOC to discuss the retaliation they are facing, including an introductory meeting before filing an official complaint. In addition, an employment attorney can help workers to better understand the EEOC process, assess the legal situation and provide advice and guidance on the next steps to take.