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Retaliation Not Excused By Also Firing Harasser

by | Jun 28, 2022 | Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Gender Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

Can I be fired for reporting my manager’s sexual advances to me?

Best Sex Harassment Lawyer Answer: An employer cannot legally retaliate against any employee who reports sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to sexually harass employees, knowingly allow co-workers or customers to harass workers, or to allow a sexually hostile work environment. (Best Law Read: What Is A Hostile Work Environment?; How Do I Sue For Being Raped At Work?; What Should I Do If I’m Being Harassed At Work?; Recognizing Sexual Harassment In The Workplace). Sexual harassment is a type of gender discrimination under Title VII.

Can my employer fire me if it also fires the sexual harasser?

Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: No. Many employers think that it can get rid of all of its “headaches” by getting rid of all the employees that it perceives as part of the problem – i.e., the sexual harasser and the worker that reported it. Sometimes a manager will say that because they could not determine the truth since there was no witnesses, they acted neutrally and fired both. This is a violation of Title VII. Employees are protected the moment they oppose or complain about sexual harassment (or any other type of discrimination protected under Title VII) regardless of the outcome of the investigation. The law is designed to encourage employees to step forward and report. Firing employees if there are no witnesses defeats this purpose and would only serve to prevent other women from reporting sexual harassment. (Best Law Read: Why Retaliation Is The Easiest Employment Claim; Why Reporting Sexual Harassment Is Critical; Can My Boss Fire Me For Reporting His Sexual Harassment?)

DeKalb County in Georgia learned this less the hard way. According to reports and court filings, Cemetra Brooks reported that her boss, Joseph Beckwith, was  subjecting her to “unwelcome and objectionable sexual advances.” An investigation substantiated the report and Beckwith was put on leave until he was allowed to resign.

Nonetheless, according to the lawsuit and relate evidence, the department’s director, Clyde Stovall, then sought information from human resources that would give him a reason to fire Brooks while she was still in her six-month probationary period. When he got none, he extended her probationary period by three months, which in and of itself could be considered unlawful retaliation. So, the employee filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Best Law Read: Read This Before Filing An EEOC Charge). The very next month, the employer fired Brookes without giving her any reason.

As a matter of law, the employer could not escape the Title VII anti-retaliation provisions by pointing to the fact that Brookes was still a probationary employee nor because it had suspended the harasser, who later resigned. Indeed, even if the employer had fired the harasser, it still could not take any adverse action against the employee who reported the sexual harassment.

What did this lesson cost this employer? $190,000, which it agreed to pay in settlement of the claims.

Was I wrongfully fired for reporting sexual harassment?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: The facts of your specific case should be looked at by a qualified employment law attorney. Luckily, you can call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?). You can also submit a confidential submission on this website. Our employment law lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Toledo, Cincinnati and Raleigh focus only on representing employees like you. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.

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