Workers have a right to a safe employment environment. This right includes not just company compliance with safety laws but also protection from discrimination and harassment at work.
Unfortunately, quite a few companies ignore obvious signs of harassment or a hostile work environment until workers report them. Some businesses will go so far as to punish workers who speak up about the mistreatment they’ve endured on the job.
Although retaliation is illegal, it does still happen. What are some of the common ways that companies punish those who speak up about harassment?
1) They demote or transfer the reporting employee
You should not face job consequences for making a report to management or human resources about mistreatment. Whether you’ve endured sexual harassment or racial discrimination from a co-worker, you should be able to trust your employer to protect you.
Sometimes, it is necessary to transfer one worker to a different department during an investigation. Such actions should affect the worker accused of misconduct and not the alleged victim. You should not face any sort of change to your compensation or status at the company because of a complaint.
2) They inform other employees about who made the report
Taking direct action against an employee who complains about mistreatment can lead to legal action. Many companies are smart enough to avoid creating a paper trail that makes them look like they have violated someone’s rights.
Instead of firing someone, the company might try to make their job as miserable as possible to push them to quit. They should protect someone’s confidentiality after making a complaint, but managers or someone in Human Resources might spread rumors or leak information to turn other employees against the person who reported. That way, the worker leaves the job of their own volition because coming into work every day is so stressful.
3) They try to build an excuse to fire them
Obviously, the company doesn’t want to terminate you for making a report, so they need to make it seem like they had a reason to fire you. If your manager starts writing you up over every tiny infraction or enforcing rules against you that they don’t apply to others, it could be a major warning sign that the company wants to push you out. Terminating someone for questionable reasons after they report harassment is a common means of retaliation.
If you know what employer retaliation might look like, you may be able to spot signs and document it to help you push back against that misconduct.