bad bosses shaking hands and exchanging money retaliation

Bad Bosses: How Employers Retaliate Against Employees

Workplace retaliation can come in a number of different forms. The most obvious is being fired after engaging in a protected action such as complaining about discrimination in the workplace. But workplace retaliation isn’t always that straightforward. Some forms are so subtle employees don’t realize what is going on until it escalates to a condition they can’t ignore.

What exactly can your employer get away with? What acts are simply bad management and what acts rise to the level of illegal retaliation? Here are some things to look for:

Is My Employer Retaliating Against Me?

Before we touch on the most common types of employer retaliation, know that a couple of distinct facts must be established if you are going to be successful with a retaliation claim.

  1. You must have participated in a protected action. This could mean blowing the whistle on illegal activities or unfair pricing or turning in someone for something like sexual harassment or race discrimination. If you participated in some form of litigation or investigation of unlawful activity, opposed unlawful activity or performed an action required by law (such as the mandatory reporting of child abuse in a hospital setting), you may have engaged in protected activity. It is not enough that you “thought” employer activity was illegal or you were about to complain, or that you are simply a member of a protected class (based on, for example, your age, sex, race etc.)
  2. Your employer must be aware that it was you who reported the action. Knowing it was reported but not knowing who did it means any negative employment actions you’re experiencing may just be coincidental and you will have to know why to link the two unless you can show employer knowledge. Your employer needn’t be made aware through official means (like filing a report with HR) but you will need to be able to show that person knew it was you, even if only through office talk or emails.

Examples of Retaliation

Here are a few of the most common ways employers retaliate against their employees outside of firing. However, please note that this is not a complete list. Just because it’s not listed here doesn’t mean the way your employer is acting isn’t retaliation. If you meet the above criteria, and your job is being negatively impacted for no reason, it’s likely you are suffering from retaliation but you should speak with an employment attorney to confirm.

It may be retaliation if:

  • You have been written up for multiple things that you either did before with no negative impact or others are doing them and no one is reacting to them. For instance, you’re being written up for being late when you have a flexible start time or you’re being singled out as tardy when others are consistently coming in after you.
  • You have been passed over for a promotion that you are qualified for and someone with lesser qualifications received it.
  • You are removed from working on a high profile project (one that positively impacts your career) for no apparent reason.
  • You have been demoted for no reason.
  • You were transferred to a new department with no warning “just because” and that transfer will negatively impact your career.
  • You are not receiving key information necessary to do your job when others are.
  • Key meetings are scheduled and you are not invited, although you were previously. Your peers are invited.
  • You are informed you are no longer eligible for a promotion or working on a key project for no reason, other than management discretion.
  • You are asked to resign with no information other than the team is now “questioning your loyalty.”
  • Management asks your co-workers not to share vital information with you that is critical to your job. They may even be told you are not a team player.
  • You receive a bad review with little information as to why you received poor marks. This is particularly suspect if prior reviews have been stellar and management has not spoken to you about performance issues.

As mentioned earlier, this is not a complete list. These are only examples. If you think your employer is retaliating against you, contact someone who understands the intricacies of employment law.

Want to learn more about workplace retaliation? Download our free eBook below.

retaliation in the workplace ebook

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.



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