Harassment can have serious consequences for everyone involved, including the victim, those who witness the harassment and are emotionally affected by it, as well as the employer. Here is a list of several possible consequences of harassment in the workplace. Some may be less obvious than others, but no less damaging:
Sometimes, there is a clear link between harassment and the damage it causes. You may be fired or demoted for refusing the sexual overtures of a coworker or supervisor. Often, you will be given some false reason for being fired, but the real reason remains very clear.
Even if there is a valid reason for you to be fired, the decision to do so may still be related to the harassment. For example, if your boss demotes you because you complained about the harassment, then fires you for objecting to the demotion, the root cause is still the harassment.
Likewise, if you are unable to work for a period of time due to the harassment and your boss uses this as a reason to fire you, the firing is still a consequence of the harassment.
A Constructive Discharge
Sometimes, the harassment is so intolerable that the victim quits his or her job before being fired. When the harassment is so severe that it justifies the victim leaving the job, it will be considered a constructive discharge. In other words, the victim was forced out of a job due to the harassment. While this can be hard to prove, courts will usually consider the victim to have been unlawfully fired.
For example, if you work for a company where you are routinely subjected to sexual advances from your boss, which eventually lead to him giving you the ultimatum, “Sleep with me or get fired!”, the court will likely rule that the combination of the routine sexual advances, the ultimatum, plus the threat of being fired made the situation so intolerable that any reasonable person would feel forced to resign, which will constitute a constructive discharge.
Demotion and Loss of Benefits
You may also be denied a promotion or be demoted when, for example, you refuse a supervisor or coworkers sexual advances. This can lead to you also losing your standing in the company, which can jeopardize future pay raises and employment opportunities.
A demotion is usually accompanied by the loss of other employment benefits such as:
- Pension contributions
- Medical benefits
- Overtime pay
- Sick pay
- Vacation pay
- Profit sharing contributions
A Transfer or Reassignment
From time to time, an employee who files a harassment complaint will be transferred or re-assigned to another department, branch, or location within the company, while the harasser goes unpunished. In many cases, being transferred or re-assigned in this manner can be considered punishment for speaking up about the harassment, especially if it results in the loss of any future pay, benefits, or opportunities for advancement.
Though it is against both state and federal laws, the victims of harassment are often reprimanded, suspended, or otherwise penalized for filing a harassment complaint. This is referred to as retaliation and is considered an actionable damage resulting from the harassment. In other words, it can lead to a lawsuit being filed against the employer by the person who complained about the harassment.
Psychological and Physical Injuries
Along with the employment-related consequences, the victims of harassment frequently suffer harassment-related psychological injuries as well, including depression, anxiety, headaches, lowered self-esteem, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, and sexual dysfunction. But, while psychological and emotional injuries are more common, pranks and violent acts perpetrated against the victim can also result in them suffering physical injuries, such as broken bones, cuts and lacerations.
Consequences for the Employer
Beyond the consequences it can have for the victims and those who witness it, workplace harassment can have a direct effect on the employer in terms of increased absenteeism, lower productivity, higher employee turnover, loss of morale, and the cost of fighting harassment lawsuits, all of which can add up to millions of dollars.
Consult with An Experienced Employment Law Attorney
If you or someone you know is experiencing harassment in the workplace, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. An experienced attorney can explain what rights you have under state and federal employment laws and how you can be compensated for any damages you have suffered. Strict timelines my apply to filing a claim, so don’t delay. Speak with a reputable employment law attorney today.