Employment retaliation can have severe consequences for workers across Florida. Employees may suffer financially, have their careers backtracked, and incur other negative after-effects.
If you have been demoted due to activity that is protected under employment laws, that is illegal. You may have an employment retaliation claim against your employer, which would be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Florida Commission on Human Rights with a c description of the situation and the adverse action and other pertinent information regarding the employer’s illegal actions. Due to the complexity of a retaliation case, it is highly recommended to work with an employment lawyer to achieve the optimum outcome for your employment retaliation claim.
What is an adverse action as it relates to employment retaliation?
The adverse action is at the core of an employment retaliation claim. Adverse action is a broad term that encompasses a wide array of circumstances that the EEOC defines as any employment action that “might deter a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity.”
Protected activities are activities such as the following, which you, as an employee, have a right to engage in:
- filing a discrimination complaint,
- filing a sexual harassment complaint,
- participating in an equal employment opportunity (EEO) legal or administrative process, or
- taking approved leave from work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
If your employer demoted you after filing a complaint, participating in an EEO process, or taking FMLA leave, you might have a case for employment retaliation. It is important to note that not all actions taken by an employer would amount to employment law violations.
Illegal Retaliation vs. Unfair Treatment: Do you have a case?
Varying situations may occur in the workplace that could be considered unfair or even retaliatory, including a demotion, but it would only be considered a case of illegal retaliation if what occurred falls within the parameters described under associated employment law.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act details three things that must be proven for employment retaliation:
- The employee engaged in protected activity
- The employer took a material adverse action against the employee
- The employer took this adverse employment action specifically because the employee engaged in protected activity
If you have been demoted and believe the above three things occurred, consult with an employment attorney to discuss your legal options moving forward.
It is important to note that the third component – linking the adverse employment action to the protected activity – does not have to have direct evidence. The case, however, must show that it is more than likely to have occurred because you engaged in protected activity that is not, which is considered a “causal link.” The causal link may be established in varying ways, including:
- Showing that shortly after the employee engaged in the protected activity, the adverse action occurred
- Presenting written or oral statements that show retaliatory animus towards the employee or reveal predetermined decisions
- Showing that the employer has inconsistencies or shifts in their reasoning for the adverse action
- Presenting an analysis of other employees at the company in similar situation/status who have not engaged in protected activity and were treated more favorably by the employer
What are examples of adverse employment actions in the workplace as it relates to retaliation?
Demotions are a common adverse action in an employment retaliation claim. But multiple other examples can occur in the workplace that could qualify for a case. Adverse employment actions related to retaliation can include:
- Reductions in monthly salary or hourly wages
- Transfers of job duties
- “Undeserved” performance ratings
- Failure to hire due to protected activity
- Failure to receive promotions
- Placement on administrative leave
- Negative job references that are false
- Extended disciplinary suspension
These are examples that could be included in an employment retaliation case, but they are not necessarily a fully comprehensive listing of adverse actions.
EEOC retaliation guidance: What you need to know
The EEOC utilizes multiple laws to prohibit retaliation and related conduct and protect employee rights. In addition to Title VII, other laws include:
- 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)
All employees covered by EEO laws are eligible for retaliation cases, whether they are full-time, part-time, probationary, seasonal, or temporary, and include applicants and current and former employees. Additionally, EEO laws apply to individuals regardless of the employee’s citizenship or work authorization.
EEOC laws also cover family members or close friends. If an employer takes action against a family member or close friend to retaliate against an employee, both individuals involved could have a legal claim against the employer.
What should I do if I’ve experienced employment retaliation?
If you have been demoted or experienced employment retaliation in another form, consult with an employment rights attorney. They will review and analyze the situation and information and provide expert legal guidance regarding employment retaliation cases.
If your employment retaliation claim is proven, there are several potential remedies listed by the EEOC:
- Preliminary relief — temporary or preliminary relief while the process is completed, asking the court to stop the retaliation before it continues (such as demotions or reductions in pay)
- Compensatory and punitive damages — money damages to compensate the employee and punish the employer (private employers only)
- Other Relief — equitable relief such as back pay, front pay, or reinstatement into a job, etc. Additional relief can include employer policy and procedure changes, managerial training, or other measures intended to promote future compliance.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. are strong, dedicated advocates of employee rights. We work diligently and aggressively to hold employers accountable for violations of employment laws and have helped thousands of employees across the state.
Illegal retaliation negatively impacts the lives of Florida employees and their families in multiple ways. You should not have to fight bullying and powerful employers on your own.
You have the right to legal counsel, and we are here to help.
Contact us today to set up a free, confidential consultation.
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.