Employment News

Are you protected against retaliation if you reject your supervisor's sexual advances/harassment?

Aug 27, 2012

According to Title VII it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who engages in statutorily protected activity by opposing a practice that is unlawful under the statute.  Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII.  Yet there remains a split in the federal district courts regarding whether an employee's rejection or opposition to a supervisor's sexual harassment constitutes protected activity under the law.  See Roberts v. County of Cook, No. 01-C-9373, 2004 WL 1088230 at *4-5 (N.D.Ill. May 12, 2004) (collecting cases reflecting split view).  Minnesota employment law is clear on this - federal courts have held that rejecting a supervisor's sexual advances or harassment is "the most basic form of protected activity."  Ogden v. Wax Works, Inc., 214 F.3d 999, 1007 (8th Cir. 2000).  Recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court seem to indicate that it would reach the same result.  See e.g., Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty, Tenn., 129 S.Ct. 846 (2009) (quoting EEOC Guidelines: "'When an employee communicates to her employer a belief that the employer has engaged in ... a form of employment discrimination, that communication' virtually always 'constitutes the employee's opposition to the activity.'”)

If you experience sexual harassment at the workplace, report the conduct.  If you have questions about how and what to do, contact an employment lawyer.  Sexual harassment can include: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.  If you feel you are being retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment, you should also report the adverse conduct and/or contact an employment lawyer.  Retaliation can include any form of intimidation, harassment, transfer or reassignment to a lesser position in wages or hours.