What Is Workplace Retaliation?

By November 7, 2014Laws

In the workplace, employers sometimes retaliate against employees that engage in legally protected activity. For instance, an employee may notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about harassment or discrimination regarding its employer. The employer may in turn retaliate, or punish, the employee that reported this behavior to the EEOC – this is illegal.

Examples of retaliation, include:

Decreasing pay
Job or shift reassignment

While firing is an obvious form of retaliation, other more subtle methods of retaliation can occur. For instance, an employer may change the employee’s shift to an undesirable time. If this employee is a single parent, a day-time shift moved to night would be a less obvious form of retaliation.

When is Employer Retaliation Unlawful?

If an employee complains either to an external entity, such as the EEOC, or internally to human resources, Federal law prohibits retaliation to that employee. Whether or not the claim progresses into a legal case, employees are legally protected from workplace retaliation. Some states have laws in effect to protect employees from employer retaliation, as well.

Methods of Retaliation

It is not always clear if an employer is retaliating against an employee. With various personalities in any given workplace, sometimes negative behavior is directly related to an individual’s naturally negative demeanor. But if changes in employer behavior lead to an adverse effect to an employees work environment, it could mean the employer is retaliating against the worker. Below is a list of the most common employer retaliation tactics:

Excluding an employee from staff meetings that he or she is typically involved in
Verbal abuse from supervisor or other member of management
Decrease in hours or pay cut
Online harassment
Physical harm to person or property
Verbal threats regarding employment status
Receiving threats while you are at home, such as phone calls
Steps to Take if You Suspect Retaliation

The first thing that you should do if you suspect employer retaliation is to speak with your supervisor or manager. If you have been moved to night shifts, your employer may explain that it was because of a staffing shortage. In this case, a reasonable explanation was provided.

However, if your employer does not offer a legitimate explanation for the negative acts, it is possible that they are retaliating against you. At this point, request that the problem be corrected. Also be sure to point out that the retaliation occurred after you made a complaint. If the problem is not resolved, contact your state’s employment agency or the EEOC.

Seek Legal Help

If you believe that you are being retaliated against in the workplace, contact an experienced attorney. Be sure to have copies of all correspondence involving the original complaint made against your employer, as well as any documentation supporting your retaliation claims. Reach out to any witnesses that could help your case, gathering their names and contact information. Workplace harassment is illegal and only a knowledgeable attorney can stand up for you in court.


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