Can I be Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a critical issue that unfortunately affects a significant number of individuals in the workplace. One question that frequently arises is whether an employee can be terminated for reporting sexual harassment. This is absolutely not permitted, but it unfortunately still happens. It’s helpful to know what steps to take and how to protect yourself.
How to Report Sexual Harassment Safely and Effectively
First, it’s essential to know how to report the harassment and what steps to take:
- Document the incidents: Note down dates, times, locations, details, and any witnesses or evidence for each occurrence. This information will strengthen your case and ensure that no pertinent details are overlooked.
- Follow company policy: Familiarize yourself with your employer’s anti-harassment policy, following the specified reporting procedures. If the policy is unclear, consult your HR department or a higher-up to clarify the steps you should take.
- Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional to help you cope with the emotional impact. You could also consider joining a support group for individuals who have experienced workplace harassment.
Protection from Retaliation
Legally, employers cannot retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment, participate in investigations, or file legal complaints.
Sadly, despite legal protections, many employers still engage in wrongful termination of employees after they report harassment. Alternatively, employers might behave in a multitude of retaliatory ways, like harassing the employees who reported the behavior, giving them warnings, cutting their work hours, not giving promotions, or making the workplace uncomfortable.
Sometimes, illegal retaliation can also involve spreading fake gossip about the employee, giving bad references for future jobs, holding the employee to stricter standards than their coworkers, or making it hard for them to do their job well. Contacting our San Diego workplace retaliation lawyers can help you fight for justice on your behalf.
Proving Unlawful Retaliation and Wrongful Termination
When an employee is fired for reporting sexual harassment, it qualifies as unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination. However, proving this in court can be quite challenging as the court will require sufficient evidence to prove the claim. This is where the expertise of an experienced employment lawyer becomes invaluable.
A skilled employment lawyer can help gather crucial evidence to establish your case by addressing three important aspects:
- Protected Activity: First and foremost, the lawyer will assert that reporting sexual harassment constitutes a protected activity.
- Employer’s Adverse Action: Next, the lawyer will establish that the employer’s subsequent adverse action, such as wrongful termination, happened after reporting the harassment.
- Termination Due to Protected Activity: Finally, the lawyer will prove that the termination occurred because of the protected activity and not due to unrelated reasons.
Challenging Employer’s Pretextual Reasons
In an effort to avoid liability, employers may provide pretextual (false) reasons for terminating an employee. A proficient lawyer will scrutinize the employer’s given reason and challenge it, eventually unraveling the real cause of the termination.
Seeking Damages and Compensation
Various damages and compensation may be awarded to individuals who have experienced wrongful termination due to reporting sexual harassment. These may include:
- Lost wages: Compensation for any income lost as a result of termination.
- Lost benefits: Benefits you would have otherwise received as an employee, such as health insurance or retirement contributions.
- Costs of employment search: Any expenses incurred to find new work, including resume preparation and interview costs.
- Psychological treatment bills: Costs of treating the psychological impact of the harassment and wrongful termination.
- Emotional distress: Damages related to the pain, suffering, and emotional turmoil experienced as a result of the harassment and termination.
- Attorney’s fees: The cost of retaining legal counsel to pursue your claim.
- Punitive/exemplary damages: In certain cases, additional damages may be awarded to punish the employer and deter similar future conduct.
While the law offers some degree of protection to employees, wrongful termination after reporting sexual harassment does occur, and the road to justice can be challenging. If you need assistance with a retaliation claim, we’re here to help. Contact the San Diego sexual harassment lawyers at Browne Employment Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.