Can My Employer Fire Me for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

Under no circumstances can your employer fire you for making a sexual harassment report.

Reporting sexual harassment is one of several workplace activities that laws at both the state and federal levels protect. Employers who terminate or otherwise retaliate against employees for reporting sexual harassment do so at the risk of incurring liability for damages.

Reporting Sexual Harassment Is a Protected Activity in the Workplace

It’s devastating enough to endure any kind of sexual harassment at work. No one should lose their job for trying to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Reporting sexual harassment is one of several protected activities in the workplace; in other words, there are laws that shield employees from reprimand by their employers for engaging in protected activities such as sexual harassment. Other activities that have similar protection include reporting other forms of discrimination, discussing wages, and being affiliated with a union.

Although reporting sexual misconduct at work is legally protected, many employees in West Virginia and throughout the U.S. are fired after reporting sexual harassment. This kind of reaction from any employer is unlawful and can be challenged with legal action.

How Can I Tell If I Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

Although people are commonly fired for reporting sexual harassment, employers don’t always make their motivation for a firing obvious. That said, a sign that your termination may have been motivated by your sexual harassment report is when the firing occurred soon after making the report.

Your termination may have also been illegally motivated by your sexual harassment report when:

  • You suddenly began receiving unfairly poor performance reviews
  • Your supervisor began to micromanage you
  • Your coworkers began to treat you differently
  • You began receiving fewer hours
  • Your employer demoted you

The circumstances above are signs of illegal retaliation when they coincide with reporting sexual harassment. Even if you still have your job, you may have a legal claim if you believe you are experiencing retaliation for speaking up about sexual misconduct.

What If My Employer Claims My Termination Was At-Will?

Employers can’t legally claim a termination was at-will when there is strong evidence to suggest it was actually because of an employee’s sexual harassment report.

West Virginia is an at-will employment state, which means employers can sever the working relationship with non-contract and non-union employees at any time or for any lawful reason. Because reporting sexual harassment is a protected workplace activity, firing someone for it is an unlawful reason.

Employers who are aware of the potential liability of firing an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint may claim the employee was terminated at-will. If your employer makes this claim, it can indicate that they’re attempting to conceal the real reason for your termination.

What Should I Do When I’m Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?

If you are at all suspicious of your employer’s real reason for firing you after you made a sexual harassment report, immediately contact an employment law attorney. The sooner you do so, the sooner a legal professional can investigate your claim and help you proceed with appropriate legal action.

Succeeding in a sexual harassment lawsuit can mean getting your job back, compensation for medical bills and lost wages, and other damages relevant to your situation. When you are ready to talk to an attorney who can help, you can reach out to Rod Smith Law PLLC for experienced legal counsel. We offer free consultations to help our clients get started.

For more information or to claim your free initial consultation, call Rod Smith Law PLLC at (304) 406-7076 now.