Sexual Harassment and Retaliation in the Workplace

Posted by Randy Andrus | Aug 24, 2021

The courage to report sexual harassment in the workplace should be commended. For many people, it can be extremely difficult to come forward after being sexually harassed at work. When the response to a person's courageous act of reporting sexual harassment is workplace retaliation, it's sickening. Fortunately, there are federal and state laws in place that protect employees from retaliation. It's illegal for an employer to respond to a harassment report by demoting, terminating, altering the employee's benefits, removing employees from projects, departments, or accounts, or responding in any other negative way that harms the employee or threatens their job. Utah Code § 34A-5-106

If you have experienced employer retaliation after reporting harassment, or you are afraid you might be retaliated against when you do report it, give our workplace sexual harassment lawyer in Utah a call at 801-535-4645, or fill out our online contact form, and we'll reach out to you to set up an initial confidential consultation. 

What Behaviors Are Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment may not always be extremely obvious. As a result, many employees who have been harassed, question if they are “making a big deal” out of the situation. At the end of the day, everyone has a right to work in a place where they feel comfortable. Any conduct that makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or happens frequently enough is inappropriate. Sexual harassment may include overt actions, like forced kissing, physical touch, repeated hugs. It also may be subtle, like repeated shoulder touches, indirect mentions of seemingly sexual topics, or lewd jokes. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11.

Sexual harassment is typically considered discrimination, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It may also violate Utah's Antidiscrimination Act. In Utah, discrimination of employees on the basis of sex, pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy-related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity is prohibited by law. Additionally, federal and Utah law protects against quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environments

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment can manifest in several ways and impact many different people, no matter their gender. Both men and women can be harassers; both men and women can be harassed. Additionally, the harasser is not always of the opposite gender. Harassers can also hold different positions in the company, including owners, officers, directors, members of the executive team, management, direct supervisors, co-workers, non-employee vendors, etc. Anyone impacted by the offensive conduct can file a report, it does not have to be filed by the direct receiver of the harassment.  

If you feel that you've been subject to harassment, a workplace sexual harassment lawyer can help you understand your rights as an employee and help you strategize your next steps.    

Can I Get In Trouble for Reporting Sexual Harassment at Work?

Unfortunately, many employees fear they will get in trouble if they report sexual harassment at work. Know that you are legally protected from retaliation by your employer. Any negative actions an employer takes against you after submitting a harassment complaint are prohibited by law. 

Along those same lines, you are protected when participating in sexual harassment or employment discrimination investigations filed by someone else. Similarly, your current employer cannot retaliate against you for participating in investigations of past employers.

Some examples of workplace retaliation include:

  • Termination
  • Refusal to promote you
  • Demotion
  • Altering of work benefits
  • Removing you from projects, accounts, or departments as a form of punishment
  • Threats
  • Negative evaluations

If you believe you've been retaliated against amid a harassment investigation, contact our discrimination lawyer to understand what your legal options are. You may have a retaliation case against your discriminating employer.   

What Specific Types of Actions Are Protected By Anti-Retaliation Laws?

It's essential to note that employees are protected from retaliation in specific types of situations. Employees are protected by these laws when:

  • Filing complaints regarding sexual harassment, gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity discrimination, racial discrimination, disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, discrimination based on race, nationality, or color
  • Participating in investigations against your employer for sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Participating in discrimination or harassment lawsuits against your employer 
  • Filing or planning to file employment discrimination or sexual harassment claims with outside government agencies, or participating in government investigations against your employer  
  • Speaking out against discrimination and sexual harassment
  • Refusing to act on an instruction from your employer that you feel is discriminatory

Antidiscrimination laws do not provide protection against nondiscriminatory situations, such as ethical, fiscal, or safety concerns. However, you may be protected by other employment laws. If you are unsure if you're protected in your specific situation, please reach out to our discrimination lawyer at Andrus Law Firm. 

How Can I Best Protect Myself from Retaliation?

If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, you have the right to report it, and you may actually be legally obligated to report it in certain circumstances. Reporting harassment can be incredibly difficult, especially when you are afraid your employer will react negatively. However, there are ways to protect yourself from the very beginning. The first step to gaining protection is consulting a workplace sexual harassment lawyer who will help you understand your options, form a strategy, and answer any questions you may have about your case. Randy and his team at Andrus Law Firm in Utah will help you identify the proper person to whom you should report the incident(s), support you in outlining your experience to help you report it in a calm, organized fashion, document the harassment, monitor your employer's internal investigation, protect you and others from employer retaliation amid the investigation, and, if necessary, help you file complaints with outside organizations, like the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division (UALD) or the EEOC. 

For a confidential initial review of your case, contact our Utah workplace sexual harassment lawyer at Andrus Law Firm at 801-535-4645, or fill out our online contact form, and we'll reach out to you. You're not in this alone.  

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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