Retaliation Against Third Parties in a Sexual Harassment Case
By now, most people know that sexual harassment or discrimination against an employee on the basis of sex or gender is unlawful. However, less is known about the laws regarding retaliation.
An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an individual who makes a sexual harassment complaint. For example, if an employee files a sexual harassment complaint with human resources and then finds that his or her work hours have been drastically cut, the employee may be able to sue for retaliation. The employee may be entitled to monetary damages or other legal remedies.
However, the law does not stop there. Individuals are also protected against retaliation for participating in a sexual harassment investigation. For example, consider an employee who witnesses a supervisor touching a colleague inappropriately and later testifies about what he saw during a sexual harassment investigation. This employee is also protected against retaliation.
The Law Protects Witnesses, Third Parties, and Other Individuals from Retaliation
In order to combat the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, employees must be free to speak up when they experience sexual harassment or witness other people being sexually harassed. An employer cannot “punish” someone who confirms another person's account of sexual harassment.
Furthermore, employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against an employee’s romantic partner, friend, or family member in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP (2011), confirmed that third parties do have the right to sue for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This case involved an engaged couple who both worked for the same company. Miriam Regalado filed a sex discrimination charge against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Just three weeks later, the company fired her fiancé.
The fiancé sued the company for retaliation, and the case ended up in the Supreme Court. Eventually, the Court found that his termination did constitute unlawful retaliation.
Examples of Unlawful Retaliation
Employers cannot punish sexual harassment complainants, their loved ones, or anyone else who participates in a sexual harassment case. Examples of retaliation can include:
- Unwarranted poor performance evaluations
- Reduced work hours or an unfavorable work schedule
- Verbal abuse or physical violence
- Transferring an employee to an unfavorable position
- Demotion or termination of an employee
Contact our DuPage County Sexual Harassment Lawyer for Help
If you or a loved one were retaliated against for engaging in a protected activity, such as filing a sexual harassment complaint, answering questions during a sexual harassment interview, acting as a witness in an EEOC case, or otherwise participating in a sexual harassment case, contact MKFM Law to discuss your legal options. Call our experienced and knowledgeable Wheaton sexual harassment lawyers at 630-665-7300.