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Webucator's Free Sexual Harassment Awareness Tutorial

Lesson: Retaliation

Welcome to our free Sexual Harassment Awareness tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Sexual Harassment Awareness for Employees and Managers course.

After harassment is reported, sometimes a new behavior surfaces called retaliation. This lesson will discuss what retaliation is and the legal actions associated with this type of conduct.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn the definition of retaliation after reporting harassment.
  • Learn how employees are protect against retaliation.

What Is Retaliation?

Retaliation is any act of revenge or backlash against someone who has reported harassment. This includes any negative act as a result of the complaint.

Examples of Retaliation

Mistreatment from co-workers or supervisors can occur if they believe the victim is:

  1. Lying.
  2. Seeking attention.
  3. Otherwise causing trouble.

Co-workers and/or supervisors can be guilty of isolating a victim in many says, such as, no longer inviting the victim to lunch or to be part of meetings.

Other forms of retaliation include hostile actions, such as:

  1. Insults.
  2. Mockery.
  3. Bullying.
  4. Gossip.

In severe cases, retaliators may threaten or assault a victim who has reported harassment.

Some forms of retaliation can mean negative career effects for the victim: Some negative effects include:

  1. Resignation by the victim to avoid uncomfortable situations that can result from reporting harassment.
  2. Poor evaluation.
  3. Withdrawal or holding back of a deserved promotion or raise.
  4. Sabotage of the victim's work.
  5. Reassignment.
  6. Forced unpaid leave of absence.
  7. Firing.

These are all forms of retaliation that are just as illegal as harassment itself.

In these situations of retaliation, the victim reported an initial harassment, and is now being harassed even further in response to the filed report. Sometimes this behavior comes from the accused harasser, and sometimes it comes from other sources.

Regardless of who performs the act, any of these behaviors are illegal and must not be tolerated.

Understanding Retaliation

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate what you have learned about retaliation.

Answer the following questions:

  1. Which of the following is NOT an example of retaliation?
    1. Dumping garbage on a harassment victim's cubicle chair.
    2. Giving donuts to every person in the office except the victim.
    3. Temporarily assigning a victim to another department at the request of the victim.
    4. Suggesting that the victim might be happier at another company.

  2. Who can be guilty of retaliation? (Select all that apply.)
    1. Victim
    2. Accused harasser
    3. Supervisor
    4. Co-worker

  3. Jamie tells his co-worker Rob that he recently filed a sexual harassment complaint against their boss Kate because she is always flirting and touching Jamie. Rob starts laughing at Jamie and tells him he's a wimp and to send her attention to Rob if Jamie can't handle it. Is this retaliation by Rob?

  4. Kara recently filed a complaint against her co-worker Michael. She told the human resources department that Michael forced himself upon her after a work party. Michael is very embarrassed because he was drunk and thought that Kara liked him. He continues to try and talk Kara into dropping her complaint. He calls her multiple times a day, sends text messages, and waits for her in the parking lot. Is he guilty of retaliation?

Protection against Retaliation

Retaliation is illegal. Since retaliation is another form of harassment, the victim takes the very same steps to report the behavior.

  1. Tell the retaliator to stop.
  2. Keep a record.
  3. Tell someone. This can be done by contacting the human resources department or contacting the EEOC.

Tell the Retaliator to Stop

Approach the person directly and explain that his or her behavior is unacceptable. Often in retaliation situations, direct conversation is not easy and, depending on the situation, may not be safe. Writing a letter or email is perfectly acceptable. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter.

Keep a Record

Record any and all details about retaliatory incidents including:

  1. Dates and times.
  2. Who was involved.
  3. Witnesses.
  4. Details of any communications you have with the retaliator.

Tell Someone

Report the incident, or incidents, to a supervisor or to the company's human resources department immediately. Keep a record of any report you give. The company should already be taking measures to investigate and resolve the harassment incident, but now they must address retaliation as well. This should be handled as a very high priority to keep the harassment victim safe.

Co-worker Responsibility

As a co-worker of a harassment victim, it is your responsibility to treat him/her with respect and not partake in any retaliatory behavior. The company performs an investigation so allow the issue to remain confidential and trust that it will be resolved. Involvement in any negative act toward the victim can bring additional legal action against the company and anyone involved.

Supervisor Responsibility

As a supervisor, if a victim comes to you, it is your responsibility to keep him/her safe from retaliation. Report any negative behavior toward the victim that you see or hear. Involve the company's human resources department to help protect the victim.

Taking Action When Retaliation Occurs

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your knowledge about what to do when retaliation occurs.

Answer the following questions.

  1. True or False: Retaliation is different from harassment and has a completely different process for reporting.

  2. Would the persons in the following scenarios be guilty of retaliation?
    1. Scenario 1: Sam listens to a group of colleagues complaining about a woman that just filed a grievance against their boss. The group makes fun of the woman and says that she should be fired. They also discuss how each of them could make her work more difficult. Sam does not want to get involved and just sits in silence.

    2. Scenario 2: Karen has recently been accused of sexually harassing her employee Sara. Karen is very embarrassed by the accusation because she is worried what the rest of the company will treat her differently if they know she is gay. Karen tells certain people that Sara is gay and that she filed a complaint after Karen rejected her.

    3. Scenario 3: Jack is Daniel's supervisor. Daniel filed a harassment grievance with Jack helping him. Jack wants to do everything possible to keep Daniel safe from retaliation. He holds a meeting with his department telling his employees that Daniel has recently been sexually harassed and anyone treating him poorly will be severely punished.