Employers have a duty to respond to sexual harassment claims appropriately. They should outline these procedures in employment policies or handbooks.
Unfortunately, too many employers do not have these in place or comply with them. Instead, they take one of the following unwise or illegal routes.
It is illegal to retaliate against someone for reporting sexual harassment. However, some employers still try to get away with retaliatory actions against complaining employees like:
- Firing them
- Demoting them
- Giving them less desirable assignments or schedules
- Taking them off projects
- Giving them unjustified poor performance reviews
When employers take these actions to punish someone for reporting harassment, they are breaking the law and violating the employee’s rights.
Dismissing the complaint
Ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment is not going to make it go away. And pressuring employees to “get over it” can be a huge mistake. This is how one company allegedly responded after a woman complained about multiple instances of sexual harassment.
According to the woman’s public statement against Blizzard Entertainment, her superiors told her to “get over it” when she reported misconduct, including inappropriate touching and unwanted sexual comments.
This statement is just one of many allegations of inappropriate, unlawful conduct against the company.
Spreading false, sensitive information
Although confidentiality typically is not a guarantee when people report sexual harassment, employers should treat the situation respectfully. A report of harassment is not some salacious piece of gossip; it is workplace misconduct that can take a devastating toll on victims.
Smearing the victim’s name, spreading rumors or publicizing sensitive details to embarrass the victim are not appropriate responses.
Protecting against these responses
Even though these responses are illegal or inappropriate, they still happen. If they do, individuals may have legal recourse.
Thus, if you report sexual harassment, remain vigilant. Do not erase voicemails or emails; take note of any changes in your job or schedule; keep records of any disciplinary actions or continuing harassment. The more information you have, the easier it can be to pursue legal remedies.