Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, and so is retaliation against those who speak up about harassment. Your employer probably has an internal policy of zero tolerance for harassment. It probably also states openly that it will not engage in retaliation against its workers who speak up about the misconduct of others.
Still, what a company says and what it actually does are often two different things. While your employer may not summarily fire you for speaking up about sexual harassment by a co-worker or manager, they could retaliate against you in other ways that are still illegal and can still cause negative consequences for your career development.
They transfer you, not the other person
Maybe you work late nights with a supervisor who has repeatedly made inappropriate comments to you. You enjoy your job and the shift because you make a premium wage for it. You should not be the one who gets transferred to second shift or to another facility when you speak up.
If the company feels that moving one worker is necessary as they conduct an investigation or to prevent future misconduct, it should be the person misbehaving, not the person speaking up, that faces consequences for their actions.
They become much more critical of your job performance
You have always been a model employee, and you have big ambitions to go along with your excellent history of performance reviews. Unfortunately, your employer might but take a different view of your contributions after you report harassment on the job.
Becoming more critical about a worker’s performance when their behavior or performance has not changed can be a form of retaliation that has long-lasting consequences on someone’s future opportunities.
They take a long-view approach to pushing you out of the company
Just because your manager is smart enough to avoid terminating you without cause right after a complaint does not mean that your job is secure. Employers may spend months or even a couple of years slowly developing believable grounds for what is truly a wrongful termination.
You might start getting written up occasionally for minor infractions, or the company might start enforcing rules that they previously did not. Once they have a paper trail that theoretically justifies your termination, they may let you go long after your complaints with the expectation that others won’t question their motive.
Recognizing the warning signs of retaliation after you speak up about sexual harassment can help you protect your job and your future.