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Retaliation a serious fear when reporting harassment

Employees who witness sexual harassment or other kinds of dangerous and illegal conduct at their New York workplaces may be afraid of speaking up due to threats of retaliation. While retaliation against whistleblowers is generally illegal, this doesn't mean that people who report unethical or damaging conduct have nothing to worry about.

Men who report sexual harassment have, on multiple occasions, been subject to firings, demotions or other forms of retaliation, even when these workers have followed company guidelines like reporting inappropriate comments, behavior, gestures or touching to human resources. In most cases, someone who is subsequently demoted or fired will have difficulty providing documentation as to the reason for their dismissal.

Some whistleblowers have been accused of poor performance after a report, even when there were no previous problems documented in company records. Even more, people who have had minor performance issues may feel particularly pressured into remaining silent about harassment and other illegal activities if they fear that their records can be used against them.

Whistleblowers can experience difficulty seeking a new job and a loss of health insurance after reporting harassment. Retaliation can be one of the most severe costs suffered by workers in an office with a culture of sexual harassment. Indeed, studies have shown that only 35 percent of young adults who have seen or experienced harassment on the job have reported it to HR or to the government, often due to legitimate fears of retaliation.

Documentation of the harassment, including recordings, photos, screenshots or even contemporaneous notes, can help to not only prove the initial complaint but also to defend a whistleblower. An employment lawyer can help to advise and represent workers who have suffered retaliation in pursuing back pay and other applicable damages.

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