Retaliation in the workplace can occur at multiple levels and in any industry. From entry-level to supervisory and management positions, employees in technology, healthcare, finance, and many more fields are susceptible to employer retaliation.
Retaliation at work can have many consequences. It can interfere with your career trajectory, cause serious financial strain, and inflict unnecessary stress and emotional difficulty. Employees and their families can pay a high price when an employer retaliates against them and breaks the law.
What Is Considered Retaliation in the Workplace?
Retaliation is an unlawful action taken against an employee for acting within his or her rights, which can manifest in multiple forms. Generally speaking, it is a negative job action where the employer is attempting to punish an employee, which can include:
- a demotion,
- engaging in abusive verbal or physical behavior that is reasonably likely to deter protected activity,
- a reduction in pay, or
- other actions
A negative job action that is “materially adverse” would be considered retaliation. What this means is that it “might deter a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity.”
The EEOC considers these rights as “protected activity” under the law:
- Filing or being a witness in an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
- Resisting sexual advances or intervening to protect others
- Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
- Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
- Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
- Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
- Asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
If you are dealing with retaliation in the workplace due to engaging in one of these “protected activities,” contact a workplace retaliation lawyer to discuss your case.
Retaliation can be overt, but it is often subtle. Laws protecting employees from retaliation at work have a broad scope. Other types of employer retaliation may include threatening or executing a job shift reassignment or an assignment of an unreasonable workload, as well as a demand to be available 24/7 for meetings or similar demands outside of the typical scope of your job/job description.
Employee Rights When Facing Retaliation
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that administers laws that protect employees from retaliation in the workplace. Several laws are utilized to hold employers accountable for illegal negative job actions against their employees. These include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehabilitation Act)
- Equal Pay Act (EPA)
- Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
Depending on the situation, an attorney can base a case upon violating one or more of these laws. These laws were constructed to place comprehensive protections for the legal actions of employees against employers who retaliate against their workers in their self-interest. Employers can face harsh penalties for violating these laws, including paying large fines, as well as significant damages to resolve a case of employer retaliation.
Take Action to Prove Workplace Retaliation
It is important to take action if you believe you have been subject to retaliation in the workplace. Similar to other areas of employment law, there are statutes of limitations to file a case against your employer. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Sometimes, the verbal or written statements from the employer, on their own, may betray or acknowledge its intention to deter an applicant or employee from engaging in protected activity. Evidence that is utilized to prove retaliation in the workplace varies. Often, these can be combined to make the case as strong as possible.
Any relevant documentation that you may have (or be able to obtain) may be important evidence. Some types of documentation that can prove useful include emails with threatening or abusive language, voicemails with threatening or abusive languages, relevant texts to your situation, human resource materials such as employee reviews, memos, or emails notifying you of shift changes or job reassignments, or other similar materials.
Do you believe you could be part of a class-action lawsuit? If a group of people was targeted, such as being laid off after asking about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages, this collective harm could amount to significant damages if proven to be workplace retaliation.
Here are examples of evidence that may support a claim of retaliation from the EEOC:
- Suspiciously close timing between the EEOC activity and the materially adverse action
- Verbal or written statements demonstrating a retaliatory motive
- Demonstrated falsity of the employer’s proffered reason for the adverse action
- Comparative evidence – such as getting disciplined for an infraction that regularly goes undisciplined in that workplace
Your attorney will lead the process and act as your advocate each step of the way.
Potential Remedies to Retaliation in the Workplace
If retaliation is found, there are a range of remedies that can occur. This type of relief can include:
- Preliminary relief – temporary or preliminary relief while the EEOC is completing its processing of a retaliation charge
- Compensatory and punitive damages – money damages are paid to compensate the victim and to punish the employer for retaliation (private employers only)
- Other relief – equitable relief such as back pay, front pay, or reinstatement into a job. Changes in company policies, procedures, training, or other measures to promote future compliance with the law
Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. Today
Retaliation in the workplace can cause significant hardship to employees and their families. Know that employees have comprehensive protections under the law to hold employers accountable for illegal actions.
Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to schedule a free, confidential consultation. When employees want workplace justice, they call us. We’re the employee’s law firm— a tireless legal team fighting for your rights.
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.