It can take a lot to muster up the courage to speak to HR and report workplace harassment. It puts you in a difficult and awkward situation, especially if you don't have the luxury of immediately leaving that job. To help make this situation a little easier, here's what employees who report workplace harassment should know.
Retaliation in the workplace occurs when an employer, such as a manager or supervisor, tries to punish or enact revenge on an employee for engaging in a protected activity. Protected activities include reporting illegal activity such as workplace harassment, and it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for doing so.
Despite retaliation being illegal, that doesn't mean that employers won't, and your report doesn't have to be against your employer for them to retaliate against you. Anything that could negatively impact the company's "image" could cause your employer to retaliate. So, if you notice your employer cuts back on benefits, pay, or attempts to isolate or fire you, this could be a case of retaliation.
If the company does nothing or the issue isn't addressed, you have the right to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), especially if the behavior continues. When filing a case with the EEOC, you have about 180 days from the day of the inciting incident to do so, and the investigation can take up to 10 months to complete. After the investigation concludes, you will receive a "right-to-sue" notice indicating that you filed the charge and can proceed with a lawsuit.
It is important to note that when you file the charges with the EEOC, they will notify the company you are suing within the first 10 days. Ideally, you'll have a lawyer ready to defend you long before then. Talking with a lawyer before filing a charge with the EEOC can help you determine whether your case holds water, and if it does, they'll help you gather the evidence necessary. Without a lawyer, you leave yourself vulnerable to waiting 10 months and receiving a Dismissal and Notice of Rights if they don't find reasonable cause to believe the incident occurred.
This is just a small part of what employees who report workplace harassment should know because every case is different. To understand the details and the ins and outs of your case, speak to work environment lawyer Tamara N Holder and get the legal representation you deserve.