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Blowing the whistle on sex discrimination

Sexual harassment and sex discrimination have no place in society. As recent headlines suggest, though, the U.S. workforce has a long way to go in eradicating unacceptable behaviors. As you likely know, stopping discrimination often requires speaking up. 

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 40% of women in the United States have experienced some type of sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the workplace. Whether you fall into that group or are simply thinking about exposing a serious problem at your office, there are some practical considerations about whistleblowing you should think through. 

Talking to a state or federal agency 

If you have been the target of sex discrimination or sexual harassment, you may be able to seek redress from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission or another agency. Some laws, though, require you to notify your employer about the situation before you report it to authorities. 

Waiting for an investigation 

Deciding to report unacceptable behavior can be difficult. If you do, there are both advantages and drawbacks to telling your employer you have notified an agency about sex discrimination or sexual harassment. Whether you tell your manager, you may have to wait a considerable amount of time for an investigation to begin. In some cases, agencies decide not to investigate at all. Either way, continuing to work after filing a complaint may present additional challenges. 

Watching for retaliation 

Virtually all employment laws protect you from retaliation for asserting your legal rights. Unfortunately, though, retaliation is not always easy to spot. Therefore, any time your manager or coworkers treat you differently, you should think about memorializing the incident in a journal. Being vigilant is often an effective way to protect yourself from retaliation. 

Choosing to blow the whistle on sexual harassment or sex discrimination is a personal decision only you can make. Before you contact a state or federal agency, though, you should think through some of the practical implications of whistleblowing.

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