After enduring harassment or learning of an unhealthy practice at work, many may wish to report the incident to hold the at-fault parties accountable. However, something often stands in the way: the threat of retaliation in the workplace.

Both Oregon and federal law prevent employers from retaliating against employees. Unfortunately, this does not always deter employers. Across the country, research shows that 65 percent of employees filing complaints alleging sexual harassment lose their jobs within just one year. As an employee, you need to know your rights against retaliation.

Understanding what retaliation includes

Retaliation occurs when an employer attempts to punish an employee after engaging in a protected activity. Such activities can include reporting sexual harassment by a manager, reporting unsafe conditions at work, filing a complaint with the appropriate federal or state agency and more.

Examples of potential retaliatory measures can include:

  • Receiving a demotion or reassignment to an undesirable shift
  • Being denied a promotion
  • Receiving negative reviews or evaluations
  • Getting your pay, benefits or hours reduced
  • Being harassed or bullied
  • Losing your job

While many of these actions can come from a manager or supervisor, some can also come from fellow employees. This can lead to a hostile work environment.

Your options to report the initial incident

You have the right to report prohibited or illegal conduct at work. Your first step should be to follow the policy of your employer to report the incident. You also have the option of filing claims of discrimination or harassment with the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and claims of hazardous conditions at your workplace with Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA).

When to file a complaint alleging retaliatory measures

When coming forward with your complaint leads to retaliation, you have the right to report such conduct. You may file a complaint with the BOLI Civil Rights Division within 90 days of when the retaliatory measures took place.

Not all conduct following your original complaint may be deemed retaliatory. However, do not overlook reactions that foster a hostile work environment and affect your career, livelihood and well-being. Documenting specific actions, as well as preserving documentation of prior behavior, can be helpful to support your claim.