Under both federal and Kentucky law, sexual harassment is considered an unlawful activity. Employers are not only prohibited from engaging in sexual harassment, but are also required to put a stop to, and remedy, any sexual harassment that they become aware of. Because of this affirmative duty, it is almost always in an employee’s best interest to report any harassment they are experiencing to Human Resources, or to their supervisorif no Human Resources department exists. Once a report is made, employers are required to take action, both to correct the situation, and to prevent any further harassment from occurring.
But that act of reporting, in and of itself, can be a particularly daunting situation. What if the harasser is someone high up in the company? What if it’s your own supervisor? What if it’s the buddy of the HR Director? What if it’s the HR Director? It isn’t unreasonable to believe that, in certain situations, reporting sexual harassment to your company might result in some negative consequences. The attorneys at Abney & McCarty frequently receive calls from people who have found themselves in these exact situations.
Fortunately, Both Title VII and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act make it illegal for an employer or an individual to retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment. Making complaints about sexual harassment to your boss, supervisor, or HR department is considered “protected activity” under these statutes, and you cannot be legally fired for making such a complaint. These laws also protect you from a number of other forms of retaliation – demotion, decrease in pay or benefits, or being passed over for a promotion.
Despite the fact this type of activity is illegal, it is, unfortunately, still a common occurrence. For this reason, you should always take steps to protect yourself when reporting harassment that you have been subjected to. Try to submit your complaint in writing, and keep a copy for yourself. Keep track of times, dates, names, and what the harasser said or did. Record any actions taken by your employer once the report is made. And if you feel that you are being retaliated against for making a report of harassment, seek legal advice to learn more about the options available to you.