Retaliation in the workplace can take many forms, and one subtle yet impactful way is through job assignments. When an employer seeks revenge or punishes an employee for asserting their rights or raising concerns, they may resort to assigning less desirable tasks.
Identifying retaliatory job assignments
Retaliation often begins with an abrupt change in your job tasks. For example, you may find yourself unexpectedly shifted from your usual role to tasks outside your expertise or job description. It may be a sign of retaliation, especially if it leads to stress and job dissatisfaction.
Another sign you might notice is if your employer excludes you from important meetings or projects. This isolation can hinder your career growth and development if they effectively marginalize you within your team.
Can your assignment be changed?
It’s important to note that an employer has the authority to change an employee’s job assignment. However, there are legal limits, especially if it is related to your protected activities, such as:
- If you use your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- If you join or file a complaint about harassment or discrimination.
- If you report workplace sexual harassment concerns.
- If you collaborate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate workplace complaints.
If the assignment change is in direct response to the employee’s protected activity, it may be considered retaliatory and, therefore, unlawful.
Legal recourse for employees
If you suspect your employer changed your job assignment in retaliation for protected activity, remember that there are laws that can protect you, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law.
You have legal recourse. You may lodge a complaint with the relevant government agency, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or consult legal experts to explore potential remedies.
While employers have the authority to change job assignments, they cannot subject their employees to less desirable tasks as a form of retaliation. Knowing your rights is essential in protecting your career and well-being.