Federal laws — and Arizona state laws — prohibit employers from discriminating against workers or potential employees due to things like gender, disability, age or race. Sadly, however, many employers, managers and business owners still engage in discriminatory practices when it comes to hiring, firing, promoting and paying their workers. Some workers experience discrimination from their co-workers, rather than supervisors.
Regardless of the position of the person discriminating against or harassing certain workers, the company you work for should take steps to address the issue as soon as possible. Sensitivity training, disciplinary actions or even termination may be appropriate, given the history of the harasser and the severity of your complaint. Sometimes, however, workplaces choose to push back against those who report harassment instead of those who engage in it.
Retaliation can be social in many workplaces
Rather than taking immediate steps to discipline or terminate the person who complained, some managers will let other workers push that person out of the job. Informing other workers about the complaint or even making up stories about that employee can result in a truly hostile work environment.
Working with a team of people who don’t want you around or who are overtly mean to you is demoralizing. Depending on the industry, it could also be patently dangerous for the shunned worker. If reporting harassment or discrimination at work resulted in social ostracization, what you’re experiencing may be a form of retaliation.
Some employers use performance reviews and discipline to retaliate
Have you always had excellent or at least satisfactory performance reviews in the past? If you receive a much lower performance review after reporting discrimination, that could be a form of retaliation. It’s important to document everything when you suspect your employer wants to build a case for firing you. That could result in wrongful termination.
Records of previous performance reviews and your actual work performance, such as sales or production records, can help substantiate your claim that the worsening performance reviews relate more to your attempt to stand up for yourself than a change in your overall work.
Other times, employers may find reasons to take disciplinary steps, up to and potentially including termination of the employee who reports the alleged discrimination. If you find yourself receiving write-ups or verbal warnings for minor issues, that could be a warning sign. If you get reprimanded for something that others are doing without consequence, that is also worth documenting for your own protection.
Worse work or fewer shifts can also be retaliation
Sometimes, retaliation directly impacts the number of hours you work or your pay. You could find yourself transferred to a less prestigious position, a later shift or even a different department. Some workers receive fewer good shifts or sales leads, resulting in lower pay through gratuities or commissions.
If you have any reason to believe that your employer may be punishing you instead of the person or people engaging in workplace discrimination and harassment, you need to learn more about your rights to protect yourself and your career.