Many companies have a clear policy that requires staff to advise human resources or management if they see something inappropriate happening. These policies are the result of years of employment lawsuits about systemic harassment and discrimination. Sadly, for many companies, these policies are nothing more than a form of legal protection. Management can point to the company policy as a means of limiting liability for any harassment that happened.
Unfortunately, it is still relatively common for those who come forward about inappropriate or discriminatory activities to face retaliation from their employers. Whether employees report harassment they are directly experiencing or legally questionable activities by a manager, the law theoretically protects staff against retaliation. Businesses, however, may still attempt to bully or punish the person making the claim.
Termination and demotion are common forms of retaliation
There's a common theme to many retaliation cases. An employee, often someone with a great professional and disciplinary record, comes forward to report on harassment or similar issues. Suddenly, without any marked change in job performance, that person ends up written up repeatedly for minor offenses and then terminated.
Other times, the whistleblower could suddenly find oneself transferred to another position or location, while the parties who were the subject of their complaint or report are in no way disciplined. Some employers are even more subtle. They may start assigning the whistleblower worse shifts, giving that person fewer hours or leads, or otherwise diminishing the income, status and work opportunities the whistleblower previously received.
You have the right to a safe and healthy workplace
Under the Equal Employment Opportunity law, participating in a complaint process at work is a protected activity. Employees should not end up subject to additional harassment or other forms of retaliation for reporting harassment, misconduct or other issues.
The reason the law protects the complaint process is simple. The intention is to make workers accountable for their actions, especially if they engage in harassing or abusive behavior toward others because of age, race, sex, religion or medical condition.
Your employer has a complaint process in order to comply with federal law. If, instead of taking your report seriously and investigating the issue, your employer punishes you, they have violated your rights and the law. You then have the option of seeking compensation for the wrongs you have experienced.
For many companies that refuse to address issues of discrimination, harassment or illegal behavior at work, financial penalties are the best way to incentivize change. Only when failure to address these issues becomes more expensive than ignoring them will change happen. Pursuing a civil lawsuit against an employer for retaliation could prevent it from happening to someone else in the future.