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Workplace Retaliation Claims

by Whitfield Bryson | Employment Law | Share

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action, such as firing or demoting an employee, in response to a claim of discrimination with which the employee is involved. This includes activity one employee takes on behalf of another employee who is being harassed or discriminated against.

While employers cannot punish employees for asserting their legal rights, workplace retaliation still happens on a regular basis across the country. In fact, over one-third of the discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the past few years included a retaliation claim.

To maintain a retaliation case under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you must be able to prove three things:

  1. You took part in a protected activity or you witnessed illegal discrimination or harassment and reported it.
  2. Your employer took a materially adverse job-related action against you, including firing or demoting you, denying you a promotion, or creating a hostile work environment.
  3. Your employer acted against you because of your protected activity.

Is All Workplace Retaliation Illegal?

Not all retaliation is illegal. In fact, retaliation is only illegal if the law protects the action preceding the retaliation. While the law can vary from state to state, there are two main categories of protected activity employers cannot legally retaliate against:

  • Participating in an employment discrimination proceeding, regardless of role
  • Opposing unlawful discriminatory practices

In addition, as long as the claim of harassment or discrimination is made in good faith, your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you.

Employment Retaliation Lawyer

An employer cannot engage in workplace retaliation against a full-time, part-time, temporary, or former employee. An employer also cannot retaliate against job applicants engaging in a protected activity. Employees who believe they may be victims of workplace retaliation need to ensure they understand the signs of retaliation, and document their own job performance and any abuse to help prove their case.

If you think you are being retaliated against, be sure to keep a record of every negative action and any verbal or written evidence related to your case. Write everything down, even small unimportant details, and include the date, time, and location – including anyone else in the room who may have witnessed an event. Bring up your concerns with your employer, either with your manager or the human resources office. Be sure you have written evidence you have raised the issue; email is effective for this, but if not an option, ask for a physical paper copy and have the manger or HR officer sign and date the complaint. If you have questions about your workplace environment, contact Whitfield Bryson LLP today.


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