Retaliation happens when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in a protected activity.
Under the law, employees are protected from any type of retaliation by their employer for the following:
- Resisting harassment and/ or sexual advances
- Cooperating with investigations on employee harassment
- Requesting accommodations for a disability or religious practice
- Whistleblowing or reporting instances of work discrimination at work
Adverse actions are wide-ranging. Dismissal is one type. Others include demoting the employee, reducing their salary, or shifting their job responsibilities to less desirable duties. Sometimes, such actions may be overt, like firing the employee. Others, alternately, are more subtle. Changing the shift of a parent with young children to a different schedule is an example.
Either way, if any of the above occur because you took action that was a protected activity, it is an infringement upon your rights and is illegal.
Sometimes it’s obvious you are being retaliated against; other times is more difficult to ascertain. But if you notice anything suspicious, you should never be afraid to speak up. You can first inform a supervisor or the human resource department of your organization to discuss the situation. Some actions may have reasonable explanations while others do not. If it is the latter, ask for remedial action immediately.
Should your employer choose to ignore your claims and the retaliation actions continue, you may need to seek an audience with your state’s fair employment agency or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you have been dismissed or lost a significant amount of wages due to workplace retaliation, it may be necessary to protect your rights through other legal means.