Sexual Harassment Retaliation: A Closer Look

Sexual Harassment Retaliation: A Closer Look

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency in charge of employment discrimination enforcement, including sexual harassment actions. Yet many of the EEOC’s cases do not involve discrimination at all. In fact, retaliation makes up over half of EEOC enforcement matters.

The EEOC handles many of the sexual harassment retaliation cases in Illinois, but it certainly does not handle all of them. Generally, this small agency only accepts cases that are easy wins and could result in large damage awards. So, investigators often review cases and then issue right-to-sue letters, even in rather clear retaliation cases.

That letter does not mean your case is weak or not worth pursuing. That letter simply gives you the freedom to partner with a dedicated Chicago sexual harassment lawyer who will fight for you, and not fight for a political agenda.

Types of Sexual Harassment Retaliation

Retaliation, like all other forms of employment discrimination, could occur at any point in the employer-employee relationship. That category also includes things like interactions during the interview and interactions with soon-to-be-ex-employees.

Generally, sexual harassment retaliation does not involve the harasser’s conduct. Instead, retaliation involves the victim’s response to this conduct. Common examples include reporting alleged harassment, serving as a witness in an internal investigation, speaking out against workplace harassment in general, or encouraging someone else to file a complaint. The types of retaliation are equally varied. Some common examples include:

  • Sidelining: Some employers retaliate by excluding workers from meetings or decisions. Some employers think that sidelining actions fly under the radar, since they involve no official loss of pay or status.
  • Opportunity Denial: A promised promotion might be rescinded or a trip to a conference might get cancelled. This form of retaliation hurts the organization as well as the targeted worker.
  • Lateral Reassignment: Some employers move workers to different shifts or physical locations (e.g., reassignment to a branch office). Frequently, employers think they are diffusing a difficult situation. Legally, however, they are retaliating against an employee.

Typically, to establish a claim in court, an attorney need only prove a temporal connection between the act and retaliation. If Susan reported a sexual harassment incident on Monday and the boss reassigned her on Wednesday, that reassignment was probably retaliatory in this context.

Damages Available

Criminal fines punish offenders for their wrongdoing. Civil damages are different. Damages restore victims to the place they would have been if the wrongful conduct had not occurred.

So, damages include both back pay and front pay. Back pay includes lost benefits. Courts usually award a reasonable amount of front pay instead of reinstatement. Although reinstatement is available, this remedy is often not practical for various reasons.

Sudden job loss, especially if the loss was not the employee’s fault, has more than an economic impact. So, retaliation victims are also entitled to compensatory damages, for things like:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional distress, and
  • Medical bills (e.g. therapy to cope with the loss).

In some cases, a compensatory damages cap applies. For example, if the employer had fewer than 100 employees, the compensatory damages cap is usually $50,000.

Contact an Assertive Lawyer

Sexual harassment retaliation victims usually have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline.