August 12, 2022

What is Retaliation in the Workplace?

While most people know that federal and state laws protect employees from harassment and discrimination, many are unaware that they also cover workplace retaliation. Because employees are protected from retaliatory action, employers can’t punish them for engaging in protected activities – like filing complaints, participating in investigations, or whistleblowing.

What is Retaliation in the Workplace?: eAskme
What is Retaliation in the Workplace?: eAskme

Demotion and termination aren’t the only acts of retaliation against an employee. Acts of retaliation include:

  • Refusing to promote or transfer an employee.
  • Denying a raise.
  • Withholding mentoring and training opportunities.  

Read on to learn what retaliation is and when you should contact retaliation specialists hkm.

Retaliation Explained:

When an employer punishes an employee for engaging in a protected activity, it is an act of retaliation.

Retaliation can also be any kind of adverse job-related action – like disciplinary action, salary reduction, job shift reassignment, demotion, and termination.

However, acts of retaliation can also be less obvious, making them harder to spot.

In an instance like termination, it’s easy to determine that an employer’s actions are harmful. But, sometimes, it’s not so clear-cut.

When an employer’s actions are not harmful, the U.S. Supreme Court prescribes carefully considering every aspect of the situation.

For instance, a job shift reassignment mandated by an employer may not be an apparent adverse action.

However, it becomes more evident when you consider the detrimental impact a forced change of work shifts may have on a single mother on a tight schedule.

Illegal retaliation can be defined as an adverse action by the employer that would deter a reasonable person from making a complaint.

When is Retaliation Illegal?

There are laws to protect employees from retaliation when they file a complaint about harassment or discrimination – whether they file it internally within the company or with an external body like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Even if the complaint is unfounded, the employee is still protected if they made it in good faith.

The laws also protect employees who serve as witnesses or participants in EEOC litigation or investigations.

There are also federal laws to protect employees who engage in activities like whistleblowing or taking FMLA leave.

Some state laws also protect employees from retaliation due to other actions – such as filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Is Your Employer Retaliating Against You?

It can be challenging to determine whether your employer is retaliating against you.

An example of an unclear case would be if you complain about being harassed by a superior, and then they behave differently around you.

If your superior start acting more professionally and isn’t as friendly toward you, his behavior is not retaliation. However, an adverse change in your work environment would be retaliation.

On the other hand, if you file a complaint and your employer or superior immediately enforces a negative job-related change that adversely affects you, you have good reason to suspect retaliation.

For instance, if your boss terminates your contract for an arbitrary reason one week after you complain about sexual harassment, you may have a retaliation case.

Something to bear in mind, though: not all acts of retaliation are apparent or necessarily mean that your position is immediately threatened.

They may come in the guise of unfair performance reviews, sudden exclusions from meetings, or your superior micromanaging you.

Some employers may even act in a retaliatory manner without realizing it.

If you feel like your boss is retaliating against you, you should consult an employment lawyer – if the retaliatory act is affecting your livelihood or mental health.

An employment lawyer can determine whether you have a strong case and recommend the appropriate legal action.

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