Whether you reported your own sexual harassment or that of a coworker, being dismissed for reporting sexual harassment is against the law.
If you lost your job for standing up for what’s right, here are the steps you need to take to fight for your rights.
3 Ways to Fight Back from Wrongful Termination
Understand the Statute of Limitations
It may be hard to emotionally process your dismissal but it’s important you do so in a timely fashion. You have a little more time with a wrongful termination than you did with reporting the original sexual harassment issue, but that doesn’t mean you should wait.
If you are claiming that your termination violated discrimination laws which prohibit adverse employment actions, including a termination, for reporting or opposing sexual harassment in the workplace, you must file a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and applicable state or local agency. In Florida you have 300 days to make that filing. The time limits in other states varies. Please be aware that the 300 days is not always counted from the date of your termination- the events that precede your termination may also be unlawful and you want to be sure to file in time to preserve those claims.
If you are seeking relief under a union contract, or other agreements which control your employment (such as civil service agreements) your time to file a complaint may be substantially shorter. A claim under the National Labor Relations Act is subject to a 6 month time limitations. The point here is to be vigilant and be prepared to act quickly to protect your rights.
In order to prove your termination was due to you reporting or opposing sexual harassment in the workplace, you need to show that:
- You participated in a protected activity (in this case reporting sexual harassment) and followed reporting procedure.
- Your employer knew it was you. Anonymous tips are hard to link to later adverse employment action.
- You were not terminated for other issues such as noted lack of performance or documentable issues like repeated tardiness. Even if you were dismissed because of the reporting, it becomes harder to prove that was the motivating factor if you have performance or other unrelated issues documented in your personnel file.
Gather your documentation and identify any witnesses to your complaint, witnesses to the harassment and others involved in your conversations about the harassment. Secure copies of emails, write down the details, and capture things when they’re fresh in your mind. Note when and how you lodged an internal complaint (time, date, verbal/written)Ask your employer why you were terminated and take notes on their answer. Remember, it is not legal to record a conversation in Florida unless both parties are aware of the recording.
You may be wondering if you should represented by an employment attorney. You can be certain if you bring a charge against your former employer, they will have a team of lawyers advising them and responding to the charge. The nuances of employment law are subtle and it is not the easiest area of the law to understand. Taking the time to speak with someone who knows what’s legal when it comes to terminations may help you see your situation differently. Many employment attorneys offer a free consultation to help you understand the wrongful termination process.
If you recently reported a sexual harassment situation with your employer through internal channels or outside channels, such as the EEOC, and you’ve been on the receiving end of negative employment actions, it may be time to familiarize yourself with your rights.
Don’t assume your employer was in the right for getting angry and terminating your employment. They may have tried to make it sound like it was in the best interest of everyone, but it’s not.
Our Wrongful Termination: When Firing Is Illegal, ebook can help you better understand the employment laws governing your position. It’s free and can help give you the insights you need to decide your next steps.