Retaliation and Remedies

Last updated May 2010


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.

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: Loi sur le Harcelement Sexuel, Arts. 4-6. Chinese law also provides an example of an anti-retaliation provision, stating that:
Anyone who retaliates against a person making a complaint, a charge or an exposure regarding an infringement upon a women’s rights and interests shall be ordered to make corrections or be subjected to administrative sanctions by his or her unit or an organ at a higher level. If a State functionary commits retaliation, which constitutes a crime, the offender shall be investigated for criminal responsibility...
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. See: Criminal Law, StopVAW.
For example, 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. 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. See: Harassment in Housing, StopVAW.
  • PROMISING PRACTICE – 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. 609.784, subd. 4. A perpetrator who violates a restraining order is subject to criminal penalties. See: Minn. Stat. sec. 609.784, subd. 6.
    • See: Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, StopVAW.