Retaliation and Remedies
last updated December 2014

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women’s Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at

Legislation should prohibit retaliation against any individual who reports harassing behaviors, who brings a complaint or legal claim alleging sexual harassment, or who cooperates with an investigation into sexual harassment.
Belize’s Protection Against Sexual Harassment Act (1996) specifies that “No employer shall carry out any action which adversely affects the opportunities, terms and working conditions of an employee who has rejected the employer's practices that are in conflict with the provisions of this Act, or who has instituted proceedings, has given testimony, collaborated or participated in any investigation, procedure or hearing initiated under this Act. (See: Art. 6)
Benin’s legislation on sexual harassment provides that no victim of sexual harassment can be sanctioned or fired for having suffered or refused to undergo acts of harassment, and also specifically prohibits retaliation against students in schools. (See: Proposition de loi sur le harcèlement sexuel, Arts. 4-6) Chinese law also provides an example of an anti-retaliation provision, stating that:
Where a person, in violation of the provisions of this Law,…retaliates against the woman who makes the compliant, charge or exposure, the unit where the person works or the department in charge or at a higher level shall instruct him to rectify, and give administrative sanctions according to law to the person directly in charge of the unit and the other persons directly responsible.
Remedies and Policy Development & Training
Remedy provisions in sexual harassment laws should reflect a policy of returning victims to the position they were in prior the harassment and should provide for dissuasive penalties
Remedies for sexual harassment vary extensively depending on the facts of cases and on the type of laws or policies under which complaints are brought. Given this variety of approaches, remedies may range from reinstatement of a worker who was dismissed, to recovery of back pay and leave time, to policy changes in education or housing settings, to changes in working conditions, to awards of compensatory and punitive damages. Some perpetrators are also subject to criminal penalties.
Philippine legislation provides that victims of harassment in the workplace or in educational and training institutions can access civil, administrative, and criminal remedies. (See: Republic Act No. 7877, sec. 4-5) Moreover, victims in the Philippines can pursue civil cases against both employers and the individual perpetrator.
Benin’s law is one of the few that lists specific remedies available to judges in cases in which a child is sexually harassed. [internal link to Benin case study below] Benin’s law also makes accomplices in sexual harassment cases liable for the same punishment as perpetrators. (See: Loi sur le Harcelement Sexuel)
In the United States, victims of workplace sexual harassment are required to file claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or with a state-level equivalent, before they can file a private suit against an employer. (See: EEOC, Filing a Charge of Discrimination). Victims of sexual harassment in housing in the United States can bring claims to their local police, state and federal housing authorities, or can file a civil claim in court.
Australian law gives the courts power to order apologies, although this remedy is not often sought. See: Sexual Harassment Prevention, Ius Laboris, 2012.
Example: Minnesota’s Harassment Restraining Order Law
Some criminal laws not only punish perpetrators but also provide special protective remedies for victims of harassment. In the U.S. state of Minnesota, for example, anyone who is being harassed can apply for a Harassment Restraining Order. See: Harassment Restraining Order, Women’s The law applies to harassment in any context, no matter what the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator. A temporary restraining order can be issued even without the harasser present in court, “if the court finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in harassment.” See: Minn. Stat. sec. 609.748, subd. 4. A perpetrator who violates a restraining order is subject to criminal penalties. (See: Harassment Restraining Order, Women’s; Minn. Stat. sec. 609.748, subd. 6. See also Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Sections).