You deserve a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. Oregon and federal laws aim to protect you from these circumstances, but this assumes that your employer complies with them.
When an employer fails to follow these laws, a hostile work environment fraught with inappropriate, and often illegal, behaviors from co-workers, supervisors or managers could exist. If you complain about these behaviors or reject advances, you could find yourself a victim of retaliation, which also violates existing employment laws.
How do you know if someone at work is guilty of retaliation?
In some cases, retaliation is more obvious. For instance, if you complain of sexual harassment and your boss fires you, it more than likely indicates retaliation. Unfortunately, in most cases, the retaliatory behavior takes on a more subtle tone. Using the previous example, your boss may transfer you to another department or give a new schedule. You may not connect this to your complaint right away.
Anytime you engage in a legally protected activity, such as filing a complaint for sexual harassment or some other discrimination, retaliation for such an activity becomes illegal. An important point to remember is that you must make your complaint in good faith, which means you believe your co-worker engaged in harassing or discriminating behavior against you. You cannot use a complaint to get back at another employee or do so to gain some other advantage at work.
Your employer should create a policy regarding retaliation. Not only should your employer make it clear that retaliation won't be tolerated, but written policies should include a mechanism for reporting it, along with outlining disciplinary actions if a complaint turns out to be true.
Could it be happening to you?
If you complained about harassment or discrimination in your workplace, you could experience retaliation as well. In fact, many victims experiencing situations such as yours also file claims for retaliation. Going outside the company may be necessary when discriminatory, harassing or retaliatory behavior continues in the workplace after you bring a complaint to the attention of the appropriate parties.
Like others before you, you may wonder whether you have a case to take outside your workplace. In order to know for sure, you could thoroughly investigate your situation, gain an understanding of your rights and learn about the legal options available to you.