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What does ‘retaliation’ actually look like?

Retaliation occurs when an employee is punished for behaving or engaging in lawful activities. While retaliation is prohibited under the law, it continues to occur every day in workplaces across the united states.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects employees from employer retaliation. According to the EEOC, employers cannot retaliate against employees for “protected activities.” These activities commonly include whistleblowing or requesting a reasonable accommodation from an employer.

Typically, employer retaliation involves a termination, demotions, reassignment or a decrease in compensation. However, it can also be more discreet. When this happens, it can make it harder for an employee to prove that a violation occurred.

According to the EEOC, there are several ways employers can make their retaliation attempts seem discreet. Commonly, employers will engage in the following acts, including:

  • Spreading rumors about the employee
  • Leaving employee out of non-work events
  • Increasing employee’s job demands
  • Criticizing the employee’s work
  • Giving employee different projects

While federal law protects employees from these types of retaliation, it does not protect employers from disciplining employees for valid reasons. However, an employer's reasons cannot be retaliatory or discriminatory. Federal law prohibits discrimination for reasons of race, color, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin or pregnancy-related reason, according to the EEOC.

Experiencing retaliation from your employer can be devastating and can cause you to experience extreme emotional distress. Luckily, state and federal laws are in place to protect employees from experiencing these types of situations at work. If you are a victim of employer retaliation, consult with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your options.

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