It can take a lot of courage and preparation to feel comfortable bringing a complaint of harassment to your employer’s attention, especially if the perpetrator is someone with a position of authority within the company.
Even in large, successful companies that have clearly-established policies on harassment and employee conduct, as well as straightforward reporting procedures, it is possible for a worker who reports legitimate concerns about harassment on the job to wind up facing retaliation instead of support from their employer. Understanding what could constitute retaliation can help you better stand up for yourself if your employer doesn’t respond appropriately to your reports of workplace harassment.
Retaliation can take many forms in the workplace
The most obvious form of workplace retaliation involves firing an employee who reports mistreatment or harassment on the job. Instead of properly investigating the circumstances and holding the perpetrator accountable, the business may choose instead to turn a blind eye to the hostile work environment and instead terminate the position of the individual who brought the issue to the attention of management or human resources.
Some companies will outright terminate someone shortly after a report or after they close the investigation that stems from a report. Other companies will be slightly more careful by suddenly having much more critical opinions of an employee’s work performance despite it having stayed the same.
An employee who reports harassment could wind up written up for behavior that other employees also engage in or could receive very negative performance reviews that seemingly justify the termination, even if the employee did not have any significant change in their work performance.
Sometimes employers just make it miserable to stay at the job after filing a complaint
The reporting process and the investigation process should attempt to protect the identity of the victim as much as possible and to remain neutral. However, companies may warn high-ranking individuals of a pending investigation or may even incentivize others to forget what they saw or choose not to provide a statement on an event they witnessed.
By letting the harasser and other employees know that someone reported something, a member of management or human resources potentially opens the victim up to additional abuse and mistreatment from their co-workers.
In some cases, the person who reports harassment will be the one who gets transferred or demoted instead of the harasser. They might start receiving fewer hours on the clock, worst shifts or even fewer sales leads. If your employer’s behavior toward you has changed since you reported harassment to them, documenting everything could make it easier for you to prove the retaliation you have experienced.