Workplace retaliation is belittling and can feel surreal. Many clients come to us only at the point of extreme escalation like firing because they had such a hard time believing it was happening. What starts out as a “cold shoulder” from the boss quickly erodes into missed meeting invites, demotions, and when that message isn’t heard…firings.
Retaliation cases now exceed claims of race discrimination, making up 45% of the claims filed with the EEOC. – The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
But what can you do and how do you handle it? Most employees dealing with workplace retaliation are left feeling disillusioned and confused. Don’t let that happen to you.
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What You Should be Tracking for Workplace Retaliation
Since retaliation takes various forms, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is save emails and other documentation. Conversations without a witness are difficult to substantiate because it becomes the employee’s word versus the employer’s. But written words speak for themselves. Also, note inconsistencies in the way you’re treated as compared to other coworkers.
The other thing you want to secure is past performance reviews, emails or written communication of the type of employee you are. Because Florida is an “Employment at Will” state, you can be terminated for any reason or no reason as long as that reason is not unlawful. Nonetheless, employers often feel like they have to justify a termination and give a reason for their decision.
We often see employers claiming that the adverse employment actions were due to misconduct by the employee. If you have glowing recommendations and performance reviews, that reason starts to look pretty suspicious and we can argue it is really a pretext- you were fired because of your protected status or protected activity and the employer is making something up to hide the real reason for your termination.
Next Actions in Workplace Retaliation
It’s expected that you will give your employer the ability to “do what’s right.” For instance, if your manager is the one who demoted you or isn’t inviting you to career-critical meetings suddenly, don’t assume the CEO or HR knows about it. Tell them what’s been going on and give them the opportunity to address the situation. If they don’t, or if the actions don’t change, you need to seek additional assistance.
Don’t worry about the black or white of workplace retaliation. Often it’s gray area that will catch up with you. If you think there’s a problem, seek counsel early on. An employment retaliation attorney can help you understand the law and how the allegations are proven; you needn’t carry that burden by yourself.
Many people fear coming to an attorney because the last time they spoke up, their employer began treating them differently. They worry what will happen if they seek help and that’s exactly the reason workplace retaliation is so effective. It makes employees feel bullied and scared and thus they stop looking to protect their own rights.
Your employer has an attorney. This is not the time to fight your own fight.
If you believe you have been a victim of workplace retaliation, don’t wait to see if it goes away. Very few workplace retaliation situations fix themselves without another party stepping in (whether that’s HR, or an attorney). Instead, consult an employment retaliation attorney at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A.