Most of us are raised to believe that it’s best to be a “good guy.” We want the good side to prevail even when the odds are against us. But sometimes the bad guy wins, at least temporarily.
It may feel that way to you if you recently reported activity at your company which you believed in good faith was a violation of a law, rule or regulation and you’ve been paying the price ever since. Maybe you were fired. Maybe you were demoted, or your prize account was taken away from you. Whatever it may have been, “good guys” don’t deserve to be treated that way.
That’s why it’s important to understand the rights you have and what constitutes workplace retaliation.
Are You Protected from Workplace Retaliation?
If you’re wondering about your employment rights, you should probably seek the counsel of an employment attorney because there are a lot of subtleties in employment law. However, if you’re not quite ready, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you understand workplace retaliation.
Please note that the statute which provides protection in your circumstance may provide additional or differing requirements (such as a complaint in writing, or a time limit within which to bring a complaint) and this is only a general listing of the most significant concepts which arise in most whistleblower litigation.
Did I File a Formal Complaint Against My Employer or Someone Employed by My Employer or Was I Involved in a Protected Activity?
Telling a loved one or friend outside the workplace about filing does not give the proof needed to show that adverse employment actions are due to retaliation for filing a complaint. You must have taken action (such as making a complaint to the appropriate party or have testified or otherwise participated in a complaint against the company’s conduct, for example, serving as a witness, about the issue in question.
However, telling the employer you intend to make a complaint may provide the basis for the whistleblower action even if retaliation by the employer takes place before you have a chance to make a more formal complaint. The issue is whether the employer has knowledge that you are engaging in protected activity.
Have I Experienced an Adverse Employment Action?
Being fired, demoted, or suddenly becoming ineligible for a promotion are all examples of negative employment actions. Being socially shunned at work is probably not enough unless you can show a significant negative impact on the terms and conditions of your employment.
Is My Adverse Employment Action Due to Another Reason?
Be honest with yourself. Do you have a problem with punctuality? Was your latest drug test positive? Were you combative with your manager?
All of these are valid reasons for dismissal that have nothing to do with retaliation.
Sure, the timing may be suspicious, but if you’ve been written up several times without changing your actions, the employer is going to point to those additional circumstances, not retaliation, as the reason adverse employment was taken.
Are You Under Increased Scrutiny?
It’s not always immediate adverse employment action that people feel in retaliation cases. Sometimes a manager begins building a case. What may have been “fine” before is now causing problems.
For instance, maybe your manager let you work at home before when your child was sick and now won’t allow you that benefit and wants a doctor’s note every time you’re out. Worse yet, this increased scrutiny only applies to you.
The best way to know for sure is to consult an employment attorney. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we only handle employee rights cases, and we fight tirelessly for workplace justice. We don’t protect employers. If you’d like to talk to someone about your situation, contact us today.
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Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.