All employees have certain rights under state and federal law that protect them against workplace retaliation. In 2017, workplace retaliation claims made up over 48.8% of all charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
However, many employees still hesitate to protect these rights for fear of exposing themselves to retaliation from their superiors. “What if I get fired or demoted to a lower-paying position?” Such fears can underlie your reluctance to stand up for what’s right. But you should know you are protected from workplace retaliation in such situations.
This post will explain workplace retaliation, signs of workplace retaliation, and how to tell if you’re a victim of retaliation.
What Is Workplace Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation refers to any career damaging actions taken by an employer to punish an employee for engaging in a legally protected activity by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Because these activities are protected, any inappropriate or unfair action against the employee by his/her employer is termed illegal.
Your legal rights are important and allow you to report any illegal activity without retaliation. However, that will not always guarantee that the employer will follow the law. So, for there to be retaliation, you should be in a position to make a reasonable complaint against your employer.
What Are the Signs of Workplace Retaliation?
Retaliation can take many forms, including any adverse action by an employer that is severe enough to deter any reasonable person from exercising their legal rights. But the following negative employment actions are usually involved in most retaliation cases:
- Demotion: Losing responsibility, status, or seniority privileges associated with your current position or being assigned to a lower-ranking position
- Exclusion: Intentionally being kept out of training, staff meetings, and other activities that are available to fellow employees
- Wrongful termination: Being removed from your position
- Reassignment: Being reassigned tasks or reschedules in a manner that causes you undue hardship
If you feel you are being subjected to acts of workplace retaliation, look for an experienced human rights attorney to help you get justice for any unlawful actions.
Other common workplace retaliatory methods include sudden unwarranted warnings, negative performance reviews, or performance improvement plans. An employer who is retaliating against you may use these tactics to build a case for your eventual termination, exclusion, salary deduction, or demotion.
Elements of Proof of Workplace Retaliation
To win a workplace retaliation case, you must be able to provide ironclad evidence of retaliation. For this, you will need to prove three elements for an employer retaliation claim:
- You actively took part in protected activity.
- Your employer took retaliatory action against you for that activity.
- Your employer’s retaliatory action was a direct response to that protected activity.
By taking part in protected activity and reporting any illegal activity in the workplace, you are asserting your rights or your co-worker’s rights. But it can also mean actively participating in an investigation into claims by co-workers.
For example, a co-worker may file a claim alleging workplace discrimination, and you’re a witness against your employer. The law protects you against workplace retaliation for your contribution to the case.
Now, let’s look at different ways you can tell your employer is retaliating against you.
How to Tell If You’re a Victim of Workplace Retaliation
An employer can retaliate against an employee in many different ways. However, proving that a specific action or a set of actions by your employer was retaliatory in nature can be quite challenging. Most times, such proof requires that you get into your employer’s mind and be able to assess and explicitly ascertain their motives.
And while it may be difficult to prove your employer’s intention, your human rights attorney can look for certain combinations of actions that ascertain motive.
Some tell-tale signs that your employer is or might be retaliating against you include:
Imagine a situation where you notice that your employer is treating you differently shortly after filing a claim against him/her. This can be a sign that you are being subjected to workplace retaliation. Generally, the closer in time these two events occur, the more likely the correlation will be, giving you a stronger retaliation case.
Whenever your employer takes negative action against you, he/she should naturally have an explanation. But if that explanation seems unlikely or falls apart too easily, he/she might be covering retaliatory behavior.
Similarly, when you receive contradictory explanations from separate supervisors or realize that the reasons keep changing, you’re likely being retaliated against. Therefore, always ask for an explanation whenever such instances occur.
And if you can, try to get it in writing. If they won’t put their explanations in writing, then be sure to keep good records. These can help prove your claim.
3. Sudden Changes
If your employer’s treatment and attitude change suddenly without cause, it may serve as proof of motive. This will be even more substantial when other employees aren’t similarly affected and when a decline in job performance or productivity doesn’t accompany these sudden changes.
Get Legal Help From an Experienced Human Rights Attorney
Talk to an experienced human rights attorney at MJSB Employment Justice right away if you think your employer might be retaliating against you. MJSB Employment Justice has immense experience in workplace retaliation and discrimination cases in Minnesota.
Contact us today if you need legal representation in your workplace retaliation case. Book an appointment, and our proficient lawyers will deal with your retaliation case swiftly and successfully.