What is Employer Retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employee is harassed, fired, or otherwise unfairly treated for bringing a claim against his or her employer.

Employer retaliation can come in a wide variety of forms, but generally it includes any action taken against an employee because the employee has filed an internal complaint of discrimination with the company, filed a charge of discrimination with a government agency, or filed a lawsuit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act  all prohibit  employers from retaliating against employees due to complaints, claims or other actions legally taken by employees against their employers. Employees are also protected from retaliation for participating in an investigation of a discrimination or harassment complaint.

What Constitutes Employer Retaliation?

Some of the most common examples of employer actions that count as retaliation are:

  • terminating employment
  • refusing to grant an earned promotion
  • unjustifiably reducing the number of hours an employee may work
  • reassigning the employee to a lesser position
  • evaluating the employee more harshly than others, and
  • creating an uncomfortable or hostile work environment.

Proving retaliation can be difficult because employers are often able to give other reasons for their actions. For example, a manager might say that a negative evaluation was due to performance problems rather than an employee's complaint of discrimination.  However, an investigation can often reveal the employer's true motive.

What Can an Employee Do?

Any employee that has been fired or otherwise retaliated against should consider talking to an employment lawyer. It’s difficult to bring a legal action without the guidance of an attorney experienced in dealing with these matters. Retaliation and wrongful termination are not uncommon occurrences, and there are legal remedies for employees dealing with these issues. Because the time limits for bringing a claim can be short, it's important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible, so you don't miss your window of opportunity.  Once the statute of limitations has run, any claims will be barred and remedies will no longer be available.

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