Victims of workplace sexual harassment face many potential harms, both professionally and personally. Too many times, they have to fear that merely speaking up and calling out the harassment they endured will harm them, through job loss or other adverse employment action. When that happens, it’s called retaliation, and it’s against the law. If that has happened to you, you should get in touch with an experienced Atlanta workplace retaliation lawyer to discuss your situation.
C.B., an administrative assistant working for DeKalb County’s Facilities Management Department, allegedly endured both that kind of sexual harassment and that sort of illegal retaliation.
The assistant’s boss, the deputy director of facilities management, liked her work and positioned her for a promotion and a raise. The deputy director also apparently was sizing the assistant up for something more than a promotion.
Four months into her employment, in June 2018, C.B. filed an HR complaint alleging that the deputy director had sexually harassed her with “unwelcome and uninvited sexual remarks and advances.” Within a week, the county had reassigned C.B. to a new supervisor working in a different building and had begun an internal investigation of the alleged harassment. The deputy director left on leave three weeks later, never to return. (He resigned a month later.)
By September, HR had confirmed the veracity of the assistant’s harassment assertions. On the surface, it sounded like a proper response from the employer.
Beneath the surface, though, the employer allegedly engaged in far more problematic conduct. Shortly after C.B. filed her complaint, the director of facilities management emailed the director of HR and stated his desire to fire the assistant before her probationary period ended, according to the lawsuit. Allegedly, to help facilitate that outcome, the director extended C.B.’s probationary period by three months and then, one week before that extended probationary period ended, fired the assistant, offering no reason for the termination.
This was impermissible retaliation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The assistant, when she submitted her complaint about her supervisor’s sexually harassing conduct, engaged in what’s called “protected activity.” (In addition to filing a formal complaint, types of protected activity include serving as a witness in someone else’s discrimination/harassment matter, communicating with a supervisory or managerial employee about discrimination/harassment, or answering questions as part of an employer investigation of alleged discrimination/harassment.)
The employer, by firing the assistant as it did, engaged in impermissible retaliation against C.B.’s submission of a sexual harassment complaint. The assistant ultimately received $190,000 in lost wages, plus other damages, when the county settled the case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
What You Do — and Don’t — Need to Succeed in Your Retaliation Case
Finally, there are a few additional important ideas to take away from this case. One, a successful retaliation case doesn’t require that your employer fire you. Any action that was triggered by your engaging in protected activity — and which was adverse toward you — can be the basis for a winning retaliation claim. Potentially, just the extension of C.B.’s probationary period alone could have been a sufficient basis for satisfying the adverse action element of a retaliation claim.
Two, merely firing (or taking other adverse action against) your harasser does not wipe out your retaliation claim. A successful retaliation claim does not require a successful underlying discrimination/harassment claim. So, while your employer’s swift action against your harasser could potentially mitigate or eliminate its liability for the harassment, it may have no impact on your retaliation claim. The law says that, even if the sexual harassment you endured did not rise to the level of illegal conduct, you still could have a winning retaliation case, so long as you had a good faith basis for thinking you had a claim.
Whether you’re someone dealing with workplace discrimination, harassment, or the fallout of your decision to speak up against discrimination and/or harassment, you have rights, including the right to be free from retaliation. The knowledgeable and aggressive Atlanta employment retaliation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help you protect yourself and your rights. Contact us through this website or at 877-986-5529 to schedule a consultation today.