Non-Retaliation and Protections for Those Speak Up

Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist

Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist


I recently concluded a podcast series with Case IQ. Over this series, I visited with Sharlyn Lauby, Jakub Ficner, Kenneth McCarthy, and Meric Bloch on the different facets of a great speak-up regime and how each of those facets will improve your corporate culture. We tackled such topics as the indicia of a great corporate culture, the importance of triage and internal investigations in improving corporate culture, non-retaliation and protections for those who speak up, tying your entire system of speaking up to improving culture, and will conclude with some thoughts on how an entire system of speaking up drives corporate culture to be better run and, at the end of the day, more profitably. This blog post series will expand on these topics. Part 2 considers the need for non-retaliation and affirmative protections for those who speak up with Kenneth McCarthy.

Kenneth McCarthy retired from the Canadian Public Service in 2020 and created Integrity by McCarthy Inc. to raise the bar on how organizations prevent and resolve incidents of workplace harassment, violence, wrongdoing, and fraud. He has seen the devastating consequences on individuals and organizations and set out to make a difference. McCarthy has led a workplace investigation program for a workforce of over 15,000 employees. He has also provided executive oversight in more than 500 workplace investigations and has designed and delivered investigation training sessions to 500 front-line managers.

Sexual harassment retaliation is a pervasive issue that creates a toxic work environment and discourages victims from reporting incidents. McCarthy stressed the importance of addressing sexual harassment retaliation and encouraging workplace reporting, which was discussed in detail. He highlighted a case where women who reported harassment faced severe retaliation, leading to a loss of trust in the reporting process. This fear of being labeled a “rat” or “gossip” often prevents victims from coming forward and seeking justice. To combat this issue, non-retaliation protocols are crucial to protect individuals and ensure legal compliance.

McCarthy emphasized the significance of non-retaliation protocols in encouraging reporting. He shared a disturbing case from his government days, where individuals who reported sexual harassment expressed regret and advised others to stay silent. The retaliation they faced was systemic and created an environment where they could no longer work with their colleagues.

The fear of retaliation is deeply rooted in the perception of being a whistleblower or complainant. McCarthy underlined the importance of having strong policies, consequences for violators, and open workplace conversations to empower bystanders. Bystanders play a crucial role in identifying and reporting harassment but often fear retaliation or loyalty conflicts.

McCarthy’s vision is for individuals to report concerns without even realizing they are whistleblowers or complainants. This can be achieved by fostering a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing any observations that don’t feel right. Real conversations between middle and senior managers and their staff are essential to emphasize the importance of raising concerns, no matter how small they may seem.

He also highlighted the need for confidentiality in reporting processes. Protecting the identity of whistleblowers and complainants is crucial to ensure their safety and prevent further retaliation. McCarthy emphasized the importance of continuous monitoring and promptly addressing incidents. You need a culture that provides resources for workplace issues and emphasizes the importance of bystander involvement, strong retaliation policies, and confidentiality in reporting processes. Organizations can create a safer and more inclusive work environment by encouraging bystanders to come forward and protecting them when they do.


Balancing the factors involved in addressing sexual harassment retaliation and encouraging reporting is challenging. Employers must navigate the tradeoffs between protecting individuals and maintaining the integrity of the reporting process. However, the long-term benefits of creating a workplace where harassment is not tolerated far outweigh the challenges.

The Me-Too movement has highlighted that addressing sexual harassment and discrimination is not solely the responsibility of the victims. Everyone is responsible for speaking up when they witness inappropriate behavior, regardless of whether it directly affects them. This shift in mindset is crucial to creating a culture of accountability and support.

In conclusion, addressing sexual harassment retaliation and encouraging workplace reporting requires a multifaceted approach. Strong non-retaliation protocols, open workplace conversations, and the empowerment of bystanders are key factors in creating a safe and inclusive work environment. By prioritizing the well-being of employees and fostering a culture of trust, organizations can effectively combat sexual harassment and ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Join us tomorrow to discuss the importance of your triage and investigation process to foster a culture of speaking up.

Listen to Kenneth McCarthy on Innovation in Compliance here.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Thomas Fox - Compliance Evangelist

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