Inspired by the #MeToo movement, thousands of women found the courage and strength to call out the sexual harassment they faced at work. Many of the highest profile stories made the frontpage news, and they toppled some powerful offenders. But what about all the other women who stepped forward with their complaints. Their stories largely followed a different trajectory. After they reported their harassment, they frequently found themselves demoted or fired, or if they stayed at work, they might have been ostracized or reassigned to less desirable projects, even if the reassignment did not strictly mean a demotion. They have suffered retaliation.
Retaliation is on the rise
According to a recent report by Vox, the #MeToo movement led to a significant rise in sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but the rise in sexual harassment claims was mirrored by a rise in retaliation charges. In fact, 75% of all the sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC in 2018 also included retaliation charges.
The EEOC recognizes the problem as well. Retaliation was the number one complaint filed with the agency, and the acting chair called it the “next frontier in terms of what we need to deal with on the harassment front.”
Recognizing and reporting retaliation
While it’s relatively easy to recognize retaliation when it leads to woman’s dismissal from a company right after she files her sexual harassment claim, it’s not always so obvious. For example, the workers who recently charged Google with retaliation claimed they were told to leave key projects, were ignored by their managers and had their work reassigned to other people.
Other forms of harassment may include:
- Unfair performance evaluations
- Verbal abuse
- Sudden increases in workload or scheduling conflicts
The key in calling out these forms of retaliation is often to document the changes in behavior and to show they are part of a pattern that follows your initial complaint. In most cases you will need to file your retaliation complaint with the EEOC before you can sue.
Time to conquer the next frontier
As the Vox article argues, the retaliation women face for speaking up during the #MeToo movement isn’t a second issue–it’s the same issue. It’s a part of the same discriminatory and dismissive system, and we need to fight the whole problem, not just a part of it.