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By: Murphy & Murphy Law Offices

Workplace Retaliation

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What is Workplace Retaliation?

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer or supervisor takes adverse actions against an employee for engaging in protected activity. Examples of protected activities include:

  • Filing complaints about worker rights.
  • Inquiring about pay or working conditions.
  • Asserting their rights as a worker.
  • Cooperating with an internal or external investigation.

An employer may retaliate against an employee to dissuade other employees from engaging in the same activity. Whatever the employer’s reason, workplace retaliation is prohibited by federal law. If you believe you have been retaliated against at work, a skilled attorney can confidentially evaluate your case and help you protect your rights as a worker.

In What Ways Might an Employee Experience Retaliation?

Some forms of workplace retaliation are easy to identify. If an employee with no history of issues with their work files a discrimination complaint and is suddenly fired without a legitimate explanation, it can be very easy to consider that retaliation. The same is true if the employee experiences inexplicable cuts to hours or wages or is unfairly disciplined. However, more subtle forms of retaliation can be harder to identify. These can include:

  • Removing the employee from meetings or projects.
  • Increasing oversight of their work.
  • Changing their schedule to a less convenient time.
  • Giving lower performance grades.
  • Excluding the employee from opportunities for career growth.
  • Spreading rumors that could impact their employment.

Actions are only considered workplace retaliation if they negatively affect your job. It is also important to note that an employee must be able to show that the adverse actions are directly linked to their engagement in a protected activity. The employer will often argue that the actions were reasonable, justified, and unrelated to the protected activity, and the burden of proof falls on the employee to prove otherwise.

What Should You Do if You Are a Victim of Workplace Retaliation?

Workplace retaliation is illegal, but it can sometimes be challenging to prove. If you are a victim of retaliation, it is key to trust the process and enlist the help of an attorney when needed to advance your case. Do not lash out, immediately quit your job, or make public allegations because it will not help your claim. What will help is collecting evidence of the retaliation, including emails, texts, your employee files, or any other relevant information?

Your first action should be to file a report of the retaliation with your supervisor or HR department. This report informs the company of the issue and gives them a chance to remedy or explain it. Reporting is a crucial step even if you believe your employer will not act because having documentation showing that you informed them of the issue is key to any workplace retaliation case. If your employer does not correct the situation or provide a reasonable explanation for their actions, you should seek the advice of an attorney who can guide you through your next steps.

How Are Workplace Retaliation Cases Resolved?

Sometimes a simple complaint to HR or a supervisor is all it takes to get the issue cleared up. Many employers do not wish to get involved in a court case or an external investigation over these subjects, so they may be keen to fix the problem before it escalates. If your employer does not adequately address your workplace retaliation complaint, you may choose to involve the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s fair employment agency. Contacting a lawyer with experience in employment issues for a free consultation can provide you with accurate advice for your specific situation. Call our law firm today to see how we can help you fight back against workplace retaliation: (805)330-3393.