Many employees fear that if they report harassment they will be fired by their employer. However, this is exactly the type of activity that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) prohibits.
Can your employer fire you for reporting harassment?
No, an employer cannot fire an employee for reporting harassment. Further, taking the step to report this conduct is a protected activity, and the EEOC prohibits employers from retaliating by firing the reporter.
What is harassment?
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that centers around unwelcome conduct based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age if 40 or older, disability, or genetic information. Further, depending on the form of harassment the individual may be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
What does the EEOC protect?
The EEOC protects employees and job applicants from discrimination, which includes the right to be free from harassment. Therefore, if you reported harassment it is a “protected activity” and it is illegal for your employer to retaliate. Generally, a protected activity includes participating in the EEOC process or opposing conduct that is unlawful under an EEOC law.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation is when an employer treats employees, former employees, or potential employees negatively because they reported, opposed, or participated in a discrimination action. For example, if an employer fires an individual for reporting harassment that would be retaliation. However, less severe actions such as transferring the employee to a less desirable position, reprimanding the employee, or threatens the employee.
What is a protected activity?
The EEOC considers many actions protected activities, including the following:
- Filing or being a witness to an EEOC complaint, charge, lawsuit, or investigation
- Telling your supervisor or manager about discriminatory conduct
- Participating in an employer investigation concerning harassment
- Refusing to follow orders that cause discrimination
- Resisting or intervening to protect others in the event of sexual conduct
Are there differences in protection based on the activity?
To qualify for protection an individual must have a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEOC laws when taking the action. However, an exception is participating in the complaint process, an employee will always be protected from retaliation.
Get Legal Help if Your Employer Treated You Poorly After Reporting Harassment
If you faced harassment or lost your job because of harassment, we can help. At McOmber McOmber & Luber, we take a proactive approach to each and every legal issue our clients face. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation.