Workplace Sexual Harassment – Retaliation Complaints Highest

Source: lculig/123RF

In Fiscal Year 2019, the most common Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims were allegations of retaliation.

In 2019, over 39,000 retaliation complaints were filed—about 54% of all claims—the highest percentage ever and the 18th consecutive year in a row with an increase.

According to the EEOC, it is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

The laws enforced by EEOC protect you from being harassed because you file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC, report discrimination to others, or help someone else report job discrimination, even if it turns out the conduct was not illegal.

The laws enforced by EEOC protect you from being punished, treated differently, or harassed because you serve as a witness in an EEOC investigation.

You are protected from retaliation if you reasonably complain about job discrimination to a manager, union official, co-worker, company EEO official, attorney, newspaper reporter, Congressperson, or anyone else, as long as:

  • You have a reasonable and good faith belief that the practice you are complaining about is illegal;
  • You oppose the practice in a reasonable manner; and
  • It is reasonably clear that you are complaining about illegal job discrimination, your employer may not retaliate against you.