Workplace retaliation lawsuits have become a costly expense for many employers. Because of this, it is important that employers are cautious when choosing how they will discipline their employees. If the punishments they choose are considered a form of illegal retaliation, they can wind up facing a very expensive lawsuit. In this blog, we explain what can be considered employer retaliation under the law.
Employees are protected by federal law from retaliation if they complain about discrimination or labor violations to their employer, or to an outside entity like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These protections also apply if the employee’s complaint winds up being unfounded, as long as it was submitted in good faith.
What Is Retaliation?
Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for participating in activities that are legally protected. This can include any negative job action, like demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job reassignment. If the employer's adverse action would deter a reasonable person from making a complaint, it can be considered illegal retaliation.
Examples of employer retaliation include:
- Reprimanding an employee or giving a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be.
- Transferring the employee to a less desirable position.
- Verbal or physical abuse.
- Threatening to make, or actually making reports to authorities. This includes reporting an employee’s immigration status.
- Increased scrutiny of an employee.
- Spreading false rumors.
- Deliberately making an employee’s work more difficult.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Retaliation?
If you think your employer is retaliating against you, you should first speak to your supervisor or human resources representative about the reasons for these negative acts. If you are not provided with a legitimate explanation, voice your concern that the retaliation against you began after your complaint and ask that it stop immediately.
If the employer isn't willing to admit wrongdoing or remedy the issue, take your concerns to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's fair employment agency and make a formal complaint. You should also consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.