Although it may be difficult to do, employees have the right to say something when they believe that their employer has violated the law. If the employee has been harassed or mistreated, they should be able to voice their concerns about the employer’s wrongdoing without it impacting them negatively, such as a reduction in hours or outright firing. Fortunately, there are federal and state laws in place to protect workers from retaliation.
Definition of Workplace Retaliation
Employment retaliation occurs after an employee files a formal complaint about the workplace involving discrimination and/or harassment. The employer or company leader then takes negative action against the employee.
Timing of the Retaliation
Under federal law, the employee is protected from retaliation after they make a complaint. The complaint can be either internally or to a government body such as The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As long as the employee makes the complaint in good faith, they are protected even if the claim turns out to be unfounded. Other protected employees include those who cooperate with EEOC investigations, witnesses in EEOC investigations or litigation, and witnesses in internal investigations.
Additionally, various federal laws protect “whistleblowers” who complain about unsafe working conditions (for example, an employee makes objections to the working conditions being unsafe from Covid-19) or for those who take legally protected FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act).
Examples of Retaliation
There are various ways that an employer might retaliate against an employee. However, it generally occurs when unfavorable action is taken regarding one or more of the following: pay, benefits, job duties, promotions, and/or training. Here are examples that the EEOC considers to be retaliation:
- Preventing employees from attending meetings or other company-hosted events;
- Transferring an employee to another department or another work location;
- Withholding the employee from a promotion or raise;
- Making the employee’s work environment feel unsafe or uncomfortable;
- Giving the employee a negative performance review; and/or
- Limiting or reducing the employee’s working hours.
How to Handle a Suspected Retaliation
If you think that you are a victim of workplace retaliation, see the following for recommended courses of action:
- Discuss the negative action taken against you with a supervisor or someone in HR.
- If your employer doesn’t have a reasonable explanation for the negative action, express your concern that the action was retaliatory; request that it ends.
- If your employer won’t admit to the wrongdoing or take action to remedy your situation, then you may have to make a report to the EEOC.
- In order to prove a case of workplace retaliation, you must show a connection between the initial complaint that triggered the retaliation and the employer’s later retaliatory behavior. Therefore, you should provide documentation of both of these elements. You can also try to track down any information that supports your initial complaint.
Talk to an Employment Attorney about Retaliation
When an employer engages in workplace retaliation, it is especially infuriating. It’s generally a case of adding insult to injury. First, you are harmed due to the behavior consistent with your initial complaint and then your employer acs out against your complaint. To help fight this situation, turn to the experienced attorneys at Walton Law, APC. We are ready to talk to you. Contact us immediately.