What is workplace retaliation? According to the Department of Labor, workplace retaliation is “when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, administrator or directly) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.â€ť
Retaliation can seriously impact an employeeâ€™s life and livelihood. It may also be used by employers as a way to discourage others from taking similar action, although this is illegal.
Protected activities that employees may engage in include:
- Reporting discrimination or harassment
- Complying with a harassment investigation
- Refusing to comply with orders that would result in discriminatory action
- Requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability or religious practice
- Filing a complaint
- Inquiring about pay or hours
- Reporting harassment
- Asserting workers rights
- Resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect someone else from sexual advances
Workplace retaliation is a serious issue that if left unchecked can foster a toxic work environment and lead to legal consequences.
Workplace retaliation can take many forms, here are some examples.
Demotion or Termination
Demotion and termination are some of the most severe forms of retaliation. If an employee engages in a protected activity and is demoted or terminated as a result, it would be considered retaliation.
Reduced Hours or Pay
Reducing hours or pay is a more subtle form of retaliation, but still can have a considerable impact on the employee’s livelihood.
Excluding an employee from an opportunity in response to them engaging in a protected activity is retaliation. Opportunities can include training, meetings, promotions, and more.
Creating a Hostile Work Environment
Another form of retaliation is when a hostile work environment is created. This can be through the form of intimidation, threats, or harassment by coworkers or employers.
When an employer disciplines an employee for engaging in protected activities, this is workplace retaliation. Disciplinary action can include verbal reprimands, suspension, or unwarranted write-ups.
Workplace retaliation is an issue that should not be taken lightly. The ramifications can have severe consequences on both employers and employees. Employers must take preventative measures to educate employees on retaliation. They can do this by providing training on anti-retaliation policies and procedures, and making sure that they foster an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to report illegal conduct without fear of retaliation.
If you are an employee who believes they have experienced retaliation, you should consult with an attorney right away to understand your rights and learn about potential legal courses of action. Be sure to find a lawyer that is experienced in employment law for the best chance at a successful claim.
It is important to note that retaliation claims can be difficult for employees to prove. Employees will need to provide ample evidence that their employerâ€™s actions were in direct response to their engaging in a protected activity. While it can be challenging to prove, it is not impossible. Especially with the help of an experienced employment law attorney.Â
This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness.
About the Author: Alana Redmond is a worker’s rights advocate and consumer safety writer who works with The Janda Law Firm, an injury law firm dedicated to enacting workplace fairness across the country