Has your employer harassed you at work? Or have they done something else that has concerned you enough to report them to HR? If that’s the case with you, and your employer reacted by demoting you or retaliated in some other way, you don’t have to sit there and take it. Now, before we look at what you can do, let’s begin by taking a closer look at the subject of employer retaliation.


When an employer acts negatively towards a worker for, say, reporting them for sexual harassment, the employer is considered to have engaged in retaliation against the worker. This is a federal crime, as well as being a crime in many states.

What Can You Recover?

Before you’re able to pursue a court case for retaliation, you need to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the federal agency responsible for handling harassment, retaliation, and discrimination charges. If this action doesn’t result in a resolution, you can ask for a right-to-sue letter that enables you to file a lawsuit in court.

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If you go ahead with an EEOC charge or decide to file a lawsuit, you’re considered at that stage to be seeking “damages”. These are the losses you experienced due to your employer’s retaliation. There are different kinds of damages that you may be able to recover in a retaliation case. One of these kinds of damages is back pay.

Back Pay

If you can offer proof that your employer retaliated against you by demoting you as a result of you reporting them to HR for harassment, you can reclaim your lost wages suffered as a result of the demotion (known as “back pay”). There’s also a possibility of you recovering pay you’ll lose in the future if you aren’t offered your old job back (known as “front pay”). You may be able to prove that your demotion will negatively affect your career, in general, which will harm your chances of securing work later on. This might not be as easy to prove, but your lawyer can work with an expert to evaluate the effect of your demotion on your future career.

Assess Your Options

You can also recover lost benefits, punitive damages, attorney fees, and pain and suffering. But remember that filing a lawsuit can be both time-consuming and costly if you’re suing a current employer. You should speak with an employment lawyer, who’s able to carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of going down the road of a lawsuit or other ways to pursue your case. The lawyer may, for example, recommend you continue the EEOC route, which typically costs less time and money than a lawsuit. If you’re looking for an employment lawyer Seattle is a great place to start. Or they may suggest that you ask the EEOC for a right-to-sue letter to allow you to file a lawsuit on an immediate basis.