What constitutes workplace retaliation?

Workplace retaliation happens when an employee speaks up about something, such as discrimination or harassment. It can also happen when an employee refuses to perform an illegal action on the job, or supports another employee after witnessing a wrongful action.

Retaliation involves a negative consequence -- like a dock in pay, a demotion, or a wrongful termination. In nearly every case, an employee suffers a negative result or punishment because he or she "did the right thing."

Examples of workplace retaliation

Here are a few examples of workplace retaliation that may have happened to you:

  • You complained about sexual harassment: Perhaps your superior is sexually harassing you at work and you spoke up to make it stop. After receiving years of great employment reviews, your employer suddenly fires you.
  • You corroborated a coworkers' complaints: Perhaps your coworker was suffering from sexual harassment that you witnessed. When your coworker complained, you made a complaint to support him or her. Now, you're working half-time as a result.
  • You refused to do something illegal: Imagine your boss asked you to transfer $10,000 from a company account to his or her private checking account. You knew it was illegal and against company policy, so you refused. The following week, your boss transferred you to another department. You have less responsibility and you're earning 10 percent less.
  • You complained to OSHA about safety issues: Imagine you have to work on a rusty, worn out scaffold that doesn't meet safety code standards. Your employer refused to fix the scaffold, so you complained to OSHA. Soon after, your employer fired you.

Even if the court rejects your complaint you can still suffer retaliation

Imagine you complain against an employer who was sexually harassing you. You even file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company. It's important to note that if you choose to keep your job and not leave the company, the company is not allowed to retaliate you for making your complaint and lawsuit. Even if your employer denies your claims, and even if your employer prevails in the lawsuit, and you lose your case, your employer still cannot retaliate against you for making the case.

If you're being treated in an unlawful way at work, you have every right to fight back. Never fear the threat of retaliation for speaking up about discrimination, illegal behavior, sexual harassment or other wrongdoing on the job.

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