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Did your employer retaliate against you for reporting harassment?

Most companies have policies in writing that condemn acts of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, many companies also have toxic work cultures and refuse to take steps to remedy that issue. You know your company's policy on harassment and may have had special training on the topic, so you followed the proper protocol.

You reported the situation to human resources and expected that it would get addressed with the people who were mistreating or abusing you. Unfortunately, that isn't always what happens.

When the perpetrators of harassment are senior staff members or management, the company may decide that only a verbal reprimand is necessary. Human resources may tell your harasser about your complaint. Even if they don't use your name, it's easy for someone to figure out who reported him or her, especially if you are one of a few members of a minority group, such as women or people of color in your workplace. You could end up facing even worse harassment or retaliation from your employer for reporting the issue.

Common ways companies retaliate against complaints of harassment

You may not have ever had an issue at work, other than harassment until you made that report to human resources. Now, all of a sudden, without a change in your work performance, your reviews are negative and management seems to find all kinds of reasons to write you up. They may be targeting you in the hope that you will seek another job to avoid getting fired from multiple disciplinary reports. Sometimes, you could simply get let go, without an explanation, after you file a complaint.

Other times, retaliation is more subtle. Your harasser or manager could start telling all your coworkers about your complaint, leaving you isolated in a hostile environment with no social support. You could start receiving fewer shifts or shifts that result in less pay.

In sales-based environments, you could start receiving fewer leads or getting leads of such poor quality that your income drops. You could end up denied a raise or promotion that you've been working toward for weeks or months without any sound reason. You could even end up demoted or transferred to another department, while the person who harassed you receives no formal punishment.

You have to push back against retaliation

It can be difficult, but you should hold your employer accountable for ignoring or subtly reinforcing a toxic work environment. If you are still employed, resist the urge to just give up and quit. Instead, take notes and carefully document everything inappropriate that happens in your work place. From taking careful notes about in-person interactions that are abusive and negative to emails that make light of or negatively reference your complaint, all of this documentation can be used as evidence against your employer if you decide to pursue civil litigation against him or her.

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