Can I be Fired if I Report Sexual Harassment?

Employment Attorneys Advocating for Workers in New York City

Sexual harassment consists of any unwelcome sexual conduct, including groping, touching, comments, jokes, innuendoes, emails, graphic posts, rape, assault, and more. At Phillips & Associates, we understand that you may feel substantial shame and anxiety about reporting sexual harassment. Our New York City sexual harassment lawyers are dedicated to helping victims of misconduct in the workplace. Following are Frequently Asked Questions related to whether you can be fired if you report sexual harassment in New York.

Can I be Fired if I Report Sexual Harassment?

It is illegal for your employer to fire you as retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. While your employer must have 15 employees to be covered under Title VII, state and local laws prohibit sexual harassment no matter how many employees your employer has. You can sue to recover damages if you are fired for reporting harassment.

How Should I Report?

You should let the harasser know directly that their actions are unwelcome. In some cases, this stops the harassment. However, you should also report the sexual harassment to your employer. Generally, it is best to follow the procedures that are outlined in your employment handbook. If no procedures are outlined, you should report the matter to HR. If your employer fails to take appropriate corrective action to fix the situation, you should consult an attorney. You may be able to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, or you may file a lawsuit under state or local laws.

What if my Employer Fires me for Reporting the Harassment?

If your employer terminates you for reporting sexual harassment in good faith, it has retaliated against you. Most anti-discrimination laws include provisions prohibiting retaliation, and you can sue the employer for retaliating against you under those provisions. Retaliation happens if an employer punishes a worker for engaging in a protected activity, such as reporting sexual harassment. The punishment may be obvious, such as demotion, firing, a reduction in salary, or an unfavorable job reassignment. It can also be subtle, such as a shift in scheduling that the employer knows will be harder for you because you have young children. If an employer's adverse employment decision would deter a reasonable person in your situation from making a complaint of sexual harassment, it is illegal retaliation, and you can recover damages for it.

Which Remedies are Available if I Have Been Terminated for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

The remedies available depend partly on which law you use as the basis for filing suit. While you may be entitled to reinstatement, often the damage to the employer-employee relationship is too great after a sexual harassment case. In those cases, it may be best to request back pay and front pay.

Under Title VII, you can also recover compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are those that are supposed to compensate for expenses caused by the harassment. For example, if you had to conduct a job search because of the harassment, you should be able to recover the costs of that search. You should also be able to recover compensatory damages for any emotional distress or loss of enjoyment that you experience due to the sexual harassment and retaliation.

When an employer perpetrates a particularly reckless or malicious act of discrimination, punitive damages may be available to punish the employer and deter future similar wrongdoing. For example, if your employer protects a known rapist and terminates you for reporting the rape, it may be appropriate to request punitive damages. Under Title VII, there are caps on compensatory and punitive damages. These caps are based on the size of the employer.

Consult Our New York City Attorneys Following an Episode of Sexual Harassment

At Phillips & Associates, we may be able to help you if you were fired for reporting sexual harassment in New York City. Our lawyers fight employment discrimination and harassment in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Westchester County, and New Jersey. Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or through our online form to learn more about the federal, state, and local laws that may protect you.

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