UC Santa Cruz Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office

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Retaliation - What Supervisors & Faculty Need to Remember About Retaliation

What is retaliation?

Retaliation is an increasingly common legal claim that arises from charges of discrimination. University policy, and federal and state laws prohibit retaliation against anyone who reports sexual assault or harassment, assists someone with a report of sexual assault or harassment, or participates in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a sexual assault or harassment report. Retaliation includes threats, intimidation, reprisals, and/or adverse actions related to employment or education.

What are elements of a retaliation claim?

The basis for a claim of retaliation includes:

  1. the claimant engaged in a protected activity;
  2. the one accused of retaliation knew about the claimant's protected activity;
  3. the claimant suffered an adverse action related to employment or education;
  4. there is a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action.

A protected activity could be complaining about sexual harassment, participating in an investigation of sexual harassment as a witness, or assisting another individual in reporting sexual harassment. An adverse action related to employment or education may include a demotion, counseling, discipline, lay-off, termination, reassignment, low or failing grade or other adverse change in employment or education status. The claimant may argue that the adverse action occurred because of the protected activity.

What actions may be perceived as retaliatory?

Certain changes in an individual's employment or education status might trigger a charge of retaliation, particularly if the perceived adverse action is in close proximity to the protected activity. The following might be perceived as retaliatory following a complaint of sexual assault or harassment:

  • Negative performance evaluation or reference
  • Denial of professional development, research or internship opportunity
  • Undesirable teaching or work schedule
  • Ostracism from co-workers or colleagues
  • Increased level of supervision or criticism
  • Lack of feedback on performance
  • Involuntary transfer
  • Poor grade
  • Termination

How can supervisors help to prevent claims of retaliation?

Adverse actions taken shortly after an individual complains of harassment tend to raise a red flag. Supervisors and faculty are encouraged to provide timely and objective feedback about performance and/or to schedule performance evaluations at regular intervals. Supervisors should enforce policies and procedures for similarly situated employees uniformly without singling out the complainant. Treat the complainant in the same manner as you would someone who had not complained about discrimination. It is wise to discuss the complaint of harassment only with those who are on a need-to-know basis.

Supervisors should monitor department gossip and remind others about the importance of privacy. Violating the privacy rights of the complainant and the accused through gossip adversely impacts the integrity of the investigation. It is important for supervisors to consult with the UCSC Title IX and sexual harassment office and other appropriate UCSC resources prior to taking any adverse action against a complainant, witness or other participant in a sexual assault or harassment investigation.




Contact Tracey Tsugawa , Title IX Officer: 105 Kerr Hall . email: ttsugawa@ucsc.edu . phone 831.459.2462