What is retaliation in the workplace?

Workers have specific protections against employers taking negative employment actions against them just because they file a valid complaint regarding the employer breaking laws. Employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees because of those protected activities. 

Some protected activities include things like making a claim regarding sexual harassment or discrimination. Participating in investigations and making statements to back up claims of these activities are also protected. In order to have the protections set forth by law, the employee must only be making truthful claims. 

What constitutes retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer or its agents take negative actions against an employee based on their protected activities. The negative actions could include:

  • Demotions
  • Pay cuts
  • Changing to a less desirable shift
  • A hostile work environment
  • Unwarranted negative performance reviews
  • Wrongful termination

It’s important to note that even if an employee engages in a protected activity, they can still be terminated if they aren’t performing their job duties up to the set standard. They could face disciplinary action for anything that other workers would, such as failing to abide by the terms of the employee handbook. 

Employers should always follow the set protocol when handling disciplinary action against employees. All employees should also keep records because they may need these if they plan on taking action if the employer retaliates against them. 

Any employee who believes they have been retaliated against or wrongfully terminated as an act of retaliation should take swift action. Learning their options can help them to set their plan in motion. There are very short time limits for these cases, so don’t waste any time exercising your rights. 


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