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Retribution for reporting sexual harassment

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Sexual harassment on the job is far too common. Even worse, when it is reported the victim is often targeted for humiliation and retribution, including being fired. This is very much illegal under Texas law and the subject of many lawsuits.

A recent case here in the Houston metro area highlights how common this is and how dramatic action has to be taken. A suit was filed by a police officer in Huntsville for wrongful termination after an investigation into her claims of constant harassment over many years resulted in her firing.

The claim

Kimberly Webb became an officer with the Huntsville police in 2013. She states that from the very beginning she was subjected to repeated sexual advances from the very start, which became more aggressive over time.

Webb filed complaints with the department, but little was done about them. The encounters became more threatening and even physical. When she filed a third complaint in 2017, she had a lawyer by her side.

At that time, the Huntsville police aggressively investigated her complaint, subjecting her to a polygraph (lie detector). When she failed that test, she was given a dishonorable discharge for insubordination and fired from the department.

She has now sued for her job and legal fees, hoping that her suit makes changes for all women proudly wearing a badge.

A classic example

The allegations which Webb made against her department were serious, and charge action illegal under Texas law. Her ultimate firing appears to violate the statute against retaliation discrimination, which is a serious offense.

Every employee has a right to file a complaint about sexual harassment. Doing so is what is called a "protected action" because it is protected by law.

In order to prove this in a court, the standard is that the employer took an adverse action, "and there was a direct connection between the protected activity and the adverse action."

How will this end up?

Because of the high profile nature of this case, it will serve as a very public example of how sexual harassment in the workplace is treated and the remedies to make it stop.

It appears on the face of it that Webb has a strong case. She repeatedly followed standard procedure by filing complaints, but the harassment did not stop. It will be up to her to prove in court by providing the text messages. The Huntsville Police claim that she responded positively to these and that they were part of a relationship between the officers. 

Have you been sexually harassed?

If you have been sexually harassed on the job, your rights as an employee are being violated. Filing a complaint is intimidating and often difficult emotionally. But you have the right to work without harassment, and your employer cannot take retribution against you for reporting abuse.

Take matters into your own hands and seek professional help. You do not have to struggle alone.

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