What to Know About Workplace Retaliation
Today, on Redhead Mom, I’m sharing a partnered guest post about Workplace Retaliation.
If an employee takes a negative action against their employee because they engaged in a protected activity, it’s considered workplace retaliation.
There are legal options available to an employee who’s been the victim of one of these situations but proving that an adverse action was retaliation can be difficult.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws related to anti-discrimination, and retaliation is one of the most common types of these cases federally.
The following are things to know about workplace retaliation.
What is Workplace Retaliation?
If you’re an employee and you engage in an activity for which you are legally protected, retaliation might include any job action considered negative. For example, if you were demoted, disciplined, or fired, these could, in certain circumstances, be examples of retaliation. Job reassignment, shift changes, or salary reduction can be as well.
These tend to be more overt examples of retaliation.
There are some that are less apparent and more subtle.
According to the Supreme Court, you have to consider the circumstances of a situation. As an example, while some employees might not find a shift change to be a big deal if you have young kids and you get a less flexible schedule, it is significant.
An employer’s adverse action is one that would deter a reasonable person in the same situation from making a complaint is the basis of illegal retaliation.
A good example might be if someone in the workplace makes a sexual harassment claim about their boss. Then, they’re moved to a different shift. This could be, depending on the circumstances, retaliation.
Retaliation Isn’t Always Illegal
Retaliation at work isn’t always illegal. It only becomes illegal when the action that comes before the retaliation is protected under the law, and protected activities can vary depending on the state.
Sexual harassment and racial discrimination are two areas where it’s always illegal to retaliate.
Some states have whistleblower laws that protect employees who bring up a large range of illegal activities, but these aren’t present in every state.
Typically, if something changes in your workplace a short time after you make a complaint, you might have a warranted reason to be suspicious of retaliation.
What Should You Do If You Think You’re Being Retaliated Against?
If you believe your employer could be taking retaliation against you, the first step is to talk to someone in human resources or to your supervisor. They should be able to explain the reasons certain actions have been taken, and it’s fair for you to ask about these things.
For example, if your shift was changed, your employer may have a reason for the change that makes sense and is within reason.
Maybe something changed because your employer has long-documented problems with your performance, or there might just be a change among other employees that then means something in your job has to change.
If you don’t feel like your employer gives you a legitimate reason for the change or action they took, then you should let them directly know that you feel like you’re experiencing retaliation. You should tell your employer that the adverse action was only taken after you complained.
If the employer doesn’t correct the problem, you might go to the fair employment agency in your state or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
How Do You Prove Workplace retaliation?
If you were to go to see an attorney about a case of workplace retaliation, they would typically look for certain elements in the case.
You’ll need evidence to show you experienced or witnessed some type of illegal harassment or discrimination. You’ll have to show you participated in a protected activity and that your employer took an adverse action against you in response to your participation in the protected activity. You also have to show the damage was suffered due to the retaliation in a civil case.
It doesn’t necessarily matter whether the harassment or discrimination you complained about is actually either of those things, as long as you made a complaint in good faith.
If you reported harassment, even if it wasn’t, but you got fired because of it, that can be retaliation.
If you file a retaliation lawsuit, you’re suing for a monetary award, which is damages. To recover damages, you have to show you had a loss. An employment lawyer can go through your case to identify losses you may have suffered due to the retaliation, like lost benefits or wages.
You can show things like pay stubs for your earnings before your retaliation, just for one example.