Employees have strong protections against retaliation and discrimination – and should be informed of their rights. Non-retaliation policies are in place to safeguard employees from retaliation after reporting a violation of company conduct or applicable law. These policies include protections whether you have made a report about an employer or a coworker. Know that in either circumstance, you should never face retaliation in the workplace.
What is the Purpose of the Non-Retaliation Policy?
When considering “What is the policy of non-retaliation?” it is necessary to talk about its purpose. These policies are developed to ensure that the business and its employees abide by state and federal laws prohibiting retaliation. This means that the non-retaliation policies intend to help prevent various retaliatory behavior, such as termination.
Termination and other actions to punish individuals after reporting an employer or coworker for a violation are wrong and illegal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the U.S. government agency that administers laws against retaliation. EEOC laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination, including harassment.
The State of Florida also has rules that cover workers across industries to keep them safe from various types of retaliatory behavior that amounts to discrimination or harassment. Some types of
retaliatory behavior can be straightforward, such as termination, but others can be less tangible, such as victimization. Non-retaliation policies also cover these less tangible offenses.
The purpose of the non-retaliation policy is to not discourage people from reporting violations in
the workplace. They are meant to promote on-the-job safety and ethical and lawful business practices and give employees the protections they need when individuals or companies are taking unlawful actions.
What is Retaliatory Behavior?
Retaliatory behavior includes a wide array of actions that an employer could take against an employee for reporting a violation. Has one of these types of retaliatory behaviors happened to you?
- Decreased wage
- Exclusion from events
- Unfair work assessments
Some of these are direct and easy to understand, such as demotions, terminations, decreases in wages, and unfair work assessments. But others are often less tangible, such as victimization and exclusion from events.
For clarity, victimization may occur in different ways. This includes a refusal to promote an employee. Other types of victimization may include denying information, equipment, or benefits provided to others performing the same job duties. Exclusion from events may include such retaliatory behavior as not allowing or inviting an individual to departmental or company meetings, not allowing an individual to take training that is important for promotional purposes that are provided to others that perform the same job duties, or not letting an individual go to industry events outside of the workplace that others that perform the same job tasks are allowed to attend.
These retaliatory actions can have varying negative consequences for the individual being retaliated against and their families. They can cause financial difficulty, interruptions or damage to careers, and personal effects that may negatively impact workers and their families.
What Activities Are Protected from Retaliation?
A crucial element that needs to be understood when asking the question, “What is the policy of non-retaliation?” is the activities that are protected under policies and the law. Here is an overview of activities that are protected from retaliation:
Harassment in the workplace is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act and should never be tolerated. Individuals are protected from retaliation if they report it. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).
According to the EEOC, harassment becomes unlawful when,
- Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or
- The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
TheAmericans with DisabilitiesAct (ADA) mandates that those who qualify under the Act can lawfully request reasonable accommodations in the workplace. If someone requests an accommodation, they are protected against retaliation.
Requests for accommodation(s) may include:
- Physical changes – such as installing a ramp or modifying a restroom
- Accessible and assistive technologies – such as providing screen reader software
- Accessible communications – such as making communications available in Braille or large print
- Policy enhancements – such as modifying a policy to allow a service animal in a business setting
Declining Sexual Advances
The workplace should be safe for everyone. Individuals are protected through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act from retaliation at work if they decline sexual advances from a boss, coworker, or other individuals on the job. The Florida Civil Rights Act also protects employees across the state.
Examples of types of sexual advances you are allowed to decline without fearing retaliation may
- Sexual propositions or repeated requests for dates
- Inappropriate touching, such as patting, grabbing, pinching, or fondling
- Obscene jokes, sexual innuendos, or offensive pictures
- Graphic sexual comments about your body
If any of the above situations have happened to you, know that you have the right to say no at any time and to anyone.
Answering Questions Honestly During an Employee Investigation
If you are a whistleblower or another employee with knowledge related to an employee investigation, you should be able to answer questions honestly and without fear of punishment. You are protected by Florida’s Private Whistleblower Act and federal laws. Know that your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you. If so, they risk facing fines and other penalties, including potential lawsuits. These consequences would apply to all types of retaliation.
Refusing to Follow Illegal Orders
Similar to the above situation, individuals who
refuse to follow unlawful orders in the workplace are protected by state and federal whistleblower laws and other laws against retaliation. Illegal and dangerous activity at work happens more than many people think. But employees can refuse these orders from their managers, bosses, or others.
These actions listed above are all essential components of your employee rights. When retaliatory behaviors are off the table, people can feel more comfortable reporting violations.
Examples of Behavior Protected by Non-Retaliation Policies
Specific examples can be beneficial to fully understand, “What is the policy of non-retaliation?”
Non-retaliation policy example 1:
A supervisor at a financial services firm frequently visits the office of an account manager on his team. He goes behind her desk and rubs her shoulders, asking her inappropriate questions of a sexual nature about her dating life. She refuses to engage with him in that type of situation and conversation and asks him to leave. He tells her, “I’m just teasing you,” and finally leaves the office. He does this at least once weekly, making the account manager uncomfortable. She becomes very anxious even just to come to work. She feels unsafe and decides to go to human resources to report what is happening.
Non-retaliation policy example 2:
An employee in the receiving department of a big box home improvement store is called to clean up spills of hazardous materials when they occur across the store. This situation happens at least several times per week, from bottles of pesticide in the indoor garden department to various products containing chemicals in the paint department. Specific safety protocols exist for the disposal of hazardous materials. The department head instructs the employee at least a couple of times each week to “Just throw it in the dumpster! We have too much else to do.” The employee at first does what he is told but becomes very concerned about this and goes to the store manager to report what is happening with his department head and the hazardous materials.
These examples provide insight into the types of actions that employees may face at work and behaviors that are protected by non-retaliation policies. However, there are many situations in which an employee would be protected. Even if retaliation does occur, there are remedies to illegal behavior. For an employer to be held accountable, the elements of retaliation need to be proven.
What Are the Three Elements of Retaliation?
Do you know how to prove retaliation at work? Three elements of retaliation need to be present.
The three elements of retaliation are:
- ProtectedActivity — this includes the behaviors discussed in the section above. A policy must be in place to invoke non-retaliation.
- Adverse Action – includes the behaviors discussed in the retaliatory behavior section above. The adverse action must be proven to be retaliatory behavior.
- Connection — this means precisely what it says: a relationship between the adverse Action and the protected activity must be proven. If these three elements exist and are proven, an individual can successfully win a case against their employer. The more related documentation and evidence an individual has, the stronger the case can be. It is essential to gather anything you have, such as dates, who was involved, what happened, and any related materials or media to the situation.
When to Consult with a Non-Retaliation Attorney
Retaliation can severely affect employees across various aspects of their lives, from financial stability to success in their chosen career and even personally. This retaliation can cause not only short-term difficulties in the immediate future but can also make an impact for a long time. No one should have to face retaliatory actions alone.
An employment attorney can help to prove a connection between an adverse action and a protected activity — which can otherwise be difficult. Each situation is different and can often be very complex. A lawyer can advise you on how best to deal with your current retaliation situation.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we are experienced, dedicated employee rights attorneys who have worked with many people across the state to hold their employers accountable for unlawful actions. When employees want workplace justice, they call us. We’re the employee’s law firm— a tireless legal team fighting for your rights.
Are you experiencing retaliation for speaking up? With a workplace retaliation lawyer, you have a strong advocate for your rights. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. Your employer has legal representation, and you deserve to have a passionate, experienced Florida workplace retaliation lawyer in your corner to take them head-on.
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.