Harassment and discrimination in the workplace are old problems, dating back decades if not centuries. The #MeToo movement has called attention to sexual harassment with several high-profile examples that range from Hollywood to news personalities and politicians. The problem affects women in all career fields whether they are executives or cashiers.
Many harassment complaints are never filed, which is unfortunate because all workers should stand up for their rights. Based on federal numbers, sexual harassment is far from the only the only form of discrimination. Data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2017 shows that claims for race, sex and age are the leading areas of discrimination. Each of these issues is involved in roughly 30 percent of complaints. It's worth noting that many claims involve multiple factors, for example both sex and race might be involved in a single case.
Retaliation leads all charges
While harassment and discrimination are significant employment problems in the country, the top reason for EEOC charges in 2017 was for retaliation. All workers are protected when they file a complaint for reasons such as age, race, sex, religion, or national origin discrimination or harassment. Protection means that their employer can't punish them for the complaint-this isn't limited to employers specifically. It also applies to anyone applying for a job.
Retaliation is when a company violates that protection and punishes an employee for speaking up. It takes many forms. The most obvious situations involve firing someone, demoting them, or failing to hire an applicant. It can also take more subtle forms, such as assigning unfavorable tasks, failure to promote or isolating a specific employee from their coworkers.
Protecting employee rights
Retaliation was involved in nearly 49 percent of the EEOC's cases in 2017 and it directly relates to issues of discrimination and harassment. When an employer isn't treating you right, there are many ways to enforce your legal rights. Winning a sexual harassment or racial discrimination case requires proof of intent and, often, recurring or habitual mistreatment. Retaliation cases look at the aftermath of a claim. Sadly, many companies fail to learn from their mistakes, and illegally punish an employee who was doing the right thing by speaking up.