In the world of employment law, retaliation represents a significant concern for employees who stand up for their rights in the workplace. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for participating in a legally protected activity. Such punishment can manifest in various forms and can have a profound impact on the employee’s job. An experienced employment lawyer can explain what constitutes employment retaliation and how it manifests in the workplace.
Understanding Employment Retaliation
Employment retaliation involves adverse actions taken by an employer against an employee due to the employee engaging in protected activities. Protected activities can include a wide range of actions, such as reporting harassment or discrimination, participating in an investigation into workplace misconduct, whistleblowing on illegal activities, requesting reasonable accommodations for disabilities or religious beliefs, or asserting rights to fair wages and working hours.
Importantly, it’s illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for asserting their rights. These protections exist at both federal and state levels, including in legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Forms of Retaliation
Retaliation can take many forms and is not limited to outright dismissal or termination. Other examples of adverse actions that can constitute retaliation include:
Demotion or Reduction in Responsibilities: If an employee suddenly finds themselves demoted or their job duties reduced after reporting a complaint or participating in a protected activity, this could be a form of retaliation.
Negative Evaluations or References: Unfairly poor performance reviews or negative references that are unwarranted and occur after an employee has engaged in a protected activity can be a form of retaliation.
Change in Job Shift or Location: A sudden and unfavorable change in work shift or location that negatively impacts an employee may constitute retaliation.
Harassment or Increased Scrutiny: If an employer or manager begins to harass an employee or place them under increased scrutiny following a protected activity, this could be viewed as retaliatory.
Denial of Promotions or Raises: Being passed over for deserved promotions or pay raises following the assertion of protected rights can constitute retaliation.
Exclusion: Being deliberately left out of professional opportunities, meetings, or social functions following a protected activity can also be a form of retaliation.
To prove retaliation, an employee typically needs to show:
That they engaged in a protected activity
That they experienced an adverse employment action
That there is a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action
While establishing this causal link can be challenging, a pattern of adverse actions closely following the protected activity often serves as compelling evidence.
Understanding what constitutes retaliation is crucial for employees to protect their rights in the workplace. If you believe you have been retaliated against, you should consider documenting all incidents and speaking with an employment law attorney or appropriate government agency to learn more about your options. Remember, every employee has the right to a safe, equitable, and non-retaliatory workplace.