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How can employees know when they are victims of retaliation?

Employees are sometimes placed in a difficult position if they see their employer do something that is illegal or unethical. They might want to report it but they also fear that they will face adverse employment actions as a result. The law forbids employers from retaliating against employees who make complaints about factual events, as well as several other situations.

The protections against retaliation begin when a person applies for a job and continue during the entire time they work there. When an employer retaliates, they can face serious penalties. Employees might decide to file a formal complaint about the retaliation, as well as the other issues they've noticed in the workplace.

What is retaliation?

Employees have a right to participate in protected activities that keep the workplace safe and free of discrimination and harassment. There are many actions that are protected by this country's equal employment opportunities laws. Some include:

  • Truthfully answering questions that are related to an investigation of the company or employees
  • Being a witness in a matter brought to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC)
  • Filing a complaint with the EEOC
  • Refusing to do something that is illegal or that will lead to discrimination or harassment
  • Resisting advances of a sexual nature
  • Stepping in when harassment or discrimination are occurring
  • Seeking accommodations for religious practices or a disability
  • Asking questions to uncover discriminatory wages

Negative employment actions include things like being terminated or demoted. Getting a pay cut or being placed at a less desirable location or on a worse shift are also examples of things that might be retaliatory.

Can employers punish employees after they file a complaint?

The anti-retaliation laws only protect employees from actions that are made in response to the protected activity. If the employee isn't performing their job duties or is failing to follow lawful rules established by the company, that person can still face negative employment actions as long as they are the same as what would happen to any other employee who committed the same violation.

How might retaliation be proven?

There are many ways that you might be able to prove that you were the victim of retaliation. One thing that often helps is to review your employment record. If an employee is suddenly terminated after filing a complaint about something, but has an impeccable record with the company, there is a good chance that this will help to prove the claim of retaliatory employment actions.

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The Law Offices of Jeffrey E. Goldman
501 Fifth Avenue
Suite 1900
New York, NY 10017

Phone: 212-983-8999
Fax: 646-693-2289
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