Can I get in trouble for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace?

If you have been discriminated against or sexually harassed at your Utah workplace, you may be wondering if you will get in trouble for reporting it.

If your Utah workplace has more than 15 total employees anywhere in the United States, you are protected by federal antidiscrimination laws.  These laws make it illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise “retaliate” against people because they complained about sexual harassment or employment discrimination.  Additionally, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for participating in a sexual harassment or employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

If you have complained about sexual harassment or employment discrimination in your Utah workplace and think that you have gotten in trouble for it, you may have a claim just for the “retaliation.”   Examples of retaliation can include all of the following:

  • Termination, refusal to hire you, denying your promotion.
  • Threats, unjustified negative evaluations, unjustified negative references, and increased surveillance.
  • Assault, filing unjustified police reports or civil lawsuits, and any other behaviors that would discourage people from reporting sexual harassment or discrimination.

Retaliation does not mean petty annoying behavior like making occasional negative comments, co-workers not wanting to socialize with you, or giving poor evaluations or references based on your actual poor work history.

Additionally, if you are suing or participating in an investigation of a past employer for sexual harassment or discrimination, it is illegal for your current employer to retaliate against you because your activities against the former employer are still protected.

It is important to remember that these anti-retaliation laws only cover reporting certain types of employment discrimination and sexual harassment.  The activities protected by anti-retaliation laws include:

  • Reporting sexual harassment, gender discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, racial discrimination, discrimination based on national origin or color, or disability discrimination.
  • Cooperating with your employer’s investigation of a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint.
  • Filing or threatening to file a charge of employment discrimination with the government and participating in a government investigation.
  • Cooperating with a lawsuit against an employer that is based on sexual harassment or discrimination.
  • Picketing in opposition to discrimination.
  • Refusing to obey an order that you believe is discrimination.

Antidiscrimination laws do not protect you if you report about non-discriminatory activities such as ethical, financial, or safety concerns.  However, you may have some protection through “whistleblower” laws.  Additionally, antidiscrimination laws do not protect you if you break the law.  For example, you should not commit or threaten violent acts if you believe that you are being discriminated against or sexually harassed in the workplace.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or employment discrimination in Utah and have gotten in trouble for reporting it, strict time deadlines may apply to your case.  We recommend that you contact one of our experienced sexual harassment and employment discrimination lawyers for a free consultation.  The experienced sexual harassment and employment discrimination lawyers at Hepworth, Murray & Associates can be reached at 801-872-2222.

This article was written by Attorney Jennifer K. Zeleny of Hepworth & Associates and Associates.

 

Michael Hepworth

Michael Hepworth

Managing Attorney at Hepworth & Associates
Michael is the Managing Attorney of Hepworth & Associates, LLC.
Michael Hepworth

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