What Does Retaliation Look Like in a Sexual Harassment Case?

What Does Retaliation Look Like in a Sexual Harassment Case?

People often fear what their employer might do if they report inappropriate or illegal behavior. Speaking out about sexual abuse can be frightening on its own, but the fear tends to compound in sexual harassment cases.

Every employee would feel safe about reporting instances of abuse, especially if it’s sexual, in an ideal world. However, the fear of backlash can be too strong. We’ll take a close look at what retaliation looks like in a sexual harassment case in this post to help you recognize when this illegal behavior rears its ugly head.

Unjustifiably Poor Performance Reviews

Normally, your performance assessments should accurately reflect your work. However, it may be an act of retaliation if you notice a sudden drop in your evaluations with no reasonable explanation or change in your work quality.

Managers or supervisors might use performance reviews as a tool to penalize employees for speaking out, aiming to discredit them or justify future adverse actions. Documenting your feedback over the long term can help bolster your case, especially if negative reviews take an uptick during the timing of your harassment report.

A man at work with his hands on his face looking upset while his boss hands him a sheet of paper.

Demotion or Transfer

Another clear indicator of retaliation is when the employer suddenly demotes, transfers, or removes responsibilities from the employee without a legitimate reason. It’s likely retaliation if this occurs on the heels of you filing a complaint.

However, it’s important to note that this, or any other form of retaliation, can occur after the abuse incident and before you file your case. These illegal acts could be your employer’s attempt to sweep things under the rug or scare you into staying quiet.

Exclusion From Training, Projects, or Promotions

A strong indication of retaliation is when an employer leaves an employee out of important training sessions, overlooks them for significant projects, or passes them over for promotions after they submit a sexual harassment report. Missing out on these opportunities not only affects an employee’s career development but also their morale and engagement at work.

An employer might claim they’re basing these decisions on merit or unrelated factors, but if they occur shortly before or after a harassment complaint, it suggests a retaliatory motive. Therefore, documentation is crucial as this evidence can support your retaliation case.

Heightened Scrutiny or Micromanagement

A supervisor or manager starting to monitor your every move or excessively criticize your work without a valid reason may indicate retaliatory behavior. This behavior typically coincides with a dip in performance reviews.

This undue attention usually aims to find faults in your performance that could justify disciplinary actions or even termination. It’s a tactic that creates a hostile work environment and discourages others from speaking up about misconduct.

Increased Hostility

Employees might find themselves at the receiving end of overt or covert aggressive behaviors from those around them, even from managers who weren’t directly implicated in the initial complaint. This hostility can manifest as snide remarks, social exclusion, or an unwelcoming attitude that makes the work environment increasingly uncomfortable.

However, this retaliatory behavior can also manifest in the form of verbal or physical abuse as an intimidation tactic in extreme cases. The idea is to marginalize the employee who spoke out, reinforcing the fear that reporting misconduct leads to negative consequences.

A line of wooden figures on a blue background with one of the wooden figures being isolated from the rest in a cup.

Isolation or Alienation

It’s often deliberate when colleagues or supervisors begin to distance themselves or exclude you from meetings, discussions, or social events. This form of retaliation aims to cut you off from essential networks within the workplace, weakening your position and undermining your sense of belonging.

This isolation can affect your ability to perform your job effectively and take a serious toll on your mental health and overall well-being. Because alienation can be such a personal act that cuts you off from your support network, this form of retaliation can often be the most emotionally damaging.

Differential and Unfair Treatment

Take notice of whether you’re suddenly receiving significantly different treatment compared to your colleagues. It’s true that favorable treatment can occur in the workplace, but this looks very different from purposely differential treatment. These actions can include harsher deadlines, fewer resources, or being held to higher standards without justification.

It’s a subtle yet impactful form of retaliation that can be challenging to prove without clear documentation and evidence. Recording instances of differential treatment and how they go against company policies is vital if you’re facing this kind of treatment. You’ll also want to include specific examples and any communication that might illustrate a pattern of unfair practices.

Unexplained Reductions in Salary or Benefits

Any decrease in paycheck or benefits you were previously entitled to should raise alarm bells, especially if it comes without a valid explanation or reason. While most places of employment keep meticulous records of payments for their own protection, don’t rely on someone else to do the work for you.

After a sexual abuse claim, it’s not entirely uncommon for the alleged abuser to try and cover their tracks, especially when trying to intimidate or retaliate against you. Don’t give them a chance to erase evidence. Your documentation can establish a timeline and prove that the reduction in salary or benefits was unwarranted and a direct consequence of standing up against sexual harassment.

Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer creates a work environment that is so unbearable that an employee feels compelled to resign. Ultimately, your employer can use all these forms of retaliation to try and force you to resign.

This type of retaliation is common. Employers might use it to get rid of an employee without having to fire them directly. They know that firing you after you file a sexual harassment complaint will make it obvious that they’re retaliating against you while providing the perfect foundation for an unfair dismissal claim.

Recognizing what retaliation looks like in a sexual harassment case can help you receive the justice you deserve. This step is the first toward holding those at fault accountable and nurturing a safer workplace environment for everyone.

However, the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder understands that walking this path alone can be daunting, if not outright impossible. That’s why our workplace sexual harassment lawyers are here to provide you with expert guidance and representation. With years of experience fighting for justice and defending the rights of employees, we have the knowledge, resources, and skills to navigate complex sexual harassment and retaliation cases swiftly and successfully.

Share This

Reach Out For Additional Information

Contact Us

More Blog Posts

The Law Firm of Tamara N Holder, LLC
Any information contained herein is not to be construed as legal advice.
Copyright © 2024, The Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, All Rights Reserved