Many people who experience workplace harassment, abuse or discrimination, are reticent to come forward about their experiences. One of the most common reasons for people to choose to ignore workplace harassment is fear of getting punished for making the complaint. This practice, called employer retaliation, is patently illegal, but that doesn’t stop businesses from engaging in it.
While it’s impossible to know exactly how many people have to deal with employer retaliation as a result of reporting mistreatment, it’s common enough that many people know someone who has had to deal with it. Instead of simply accepting the poor behavior of your coworkers or employer, you should stand up against harassment and any retaliation from your employer that follows.
Some of the most common forms of harassment focus on aspects of an individual’s identity that he or she has no control over. These include age, gender, country of origin, physical ability level and race, among others. Neither your gender nor the color of your skin have any bearing on your ability to perform a job, so they shouldn’t matter to your co-workers or employer. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.
Facing abuse, nasty jokes or exclusion in the workplace due to your age, race, disability or gender can quickly result in a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can make it difficult for you to perform to the best of your abilities. When that happens, the person or people responsible for the harassment should face punishment, not the person reporting it.
There are many kinds of employer retaliation, and they range in severity and subtlety. Some forms are obvious. For example, if you make a confidential report to management or human resources about something happening, only to realize your coworkers have heard about it, that could damage your work relationships or make staying in the same position impossible.
It’s also possible for your employer to take action against you directly. People can lose their jobs, get demoted, receive a pay cut or simply start receiving worse work, leads or shifts after making a complaint. Other times, an employer may start finding issue with your job performance and writing you up, even though your performance hasn’t changed.
Just like you may have done with the harassment, you should take steps to document any behavior you view as a form of retaliation. Information, including times, dates, what happened and who was involved, can substantiate your claim of retaliation.
Doing so will help ensure that you have evidence if your employer terminates your position or otherwise violates your basic civil rights for requesting a harassment-free workplace. Make records of any negative interactions or employment decisions that follow your harassment report to hold your employer accountable.