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What is unlawful employment retaliation?

Numerous state and federal laws protect you as an employee. One of your most important workplace protections is the right to be free from retaliation. Your employer should not punish you for asserting your rights or speaking up about something inappropriate at work.

Some people believe that they have experienced workplace retaliation when in fact they have not. Familiarizing yourself with what constitutes retaliation can help determine if your employer may have violated your rights.

What behaviors have protection?

Federal law is clear that retaliation is typically a response to one of four kinds of behaviors. These include making inquiries about pay or otherwise trying to organize labor at your place of employment, asserting your employment rights (like the right to overtime pay), filing a complaint about a violation of their rights and cooperating with a government investigation into the company’s practices.

Workers shouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs or facing other penalties for refusing to do something dangerous, for asking for proper training, for reporting sexual harassment on the job or for making use of their right to paid or unpaid leave. Employers should not take punitive action against their staff members for engaging in any of these protected activities.

What employer actions constitute retaliation?

Sometimes, companies are transparent about their retaliatory behavior, and they fire people right away after they assert themselves. Retaliation does not always mean termination of someone’s employment arrangements.

Sometimes, retaliation might involve a transfer to a lower-paying position or a different shift that is less convenient for the worker. It might mean getting written up repeatedly until the company has an excuse to demote or fire you.

How do you fight retaliation?

The more documentation you have that could help you prove your employer’s decisions were a response to protected activity, the easier it will be for you to make a retaliation claim. You can sometimes file paperwork internally to have human resources review the situation.

If the company does not offer that kind of support, then you may need to pursue civil action. The courts could potentially give you your job back or award you financial compensation for the practical consequences of your employer’s misconduct.

Being able to recognize workplace retaliation is a crucial first step toward fighting back when your employer violates your rights.