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3 ways companies may illegally punish you for reporting harassment

On Behalf of | Nov 19, 2021 | Employment Law |

As an employee, you have certain rights that your employer cannot violate. For example, you have the right to a safe and discrimination-free workplace. You have the right to fair pay that complies with all federal wage laws. You also have a right to speak up when a co-worker, customer or supervisor harasses or abuses you on the job.

You should be able to count on your employer to defend you and the safety of your workspace when you draw attention to harassment or discrimination. Unfortunately, even though there are federal laws that make it illegal for a business to retaliate against workers who report misconduct, companies do sometimes still punish those who speak up for their own rights.

What are some of the ways a business could illegally retaliate against you because of a complaint?

They demote or transfer you

Companies should investigate complaints of harassment or discrimination. The workers mistreating other employees are the ones that should face consequences, not the employees enduring mistreatment.

Sometimes, rather than looking into the matter or punishing the person misbehaving, the business will instead transfer the worker who made the complaint. Moving you to another department, demoting you, transferring you to another facility or changing your shift are all examples of inappropriate retaliation that you should not experience after filing a complaint with your employer.

They start critiquing your job performance more harshly

If you have always had glowing performance reviews before, receiving a negative review after a complaint might shock you. However, it is unfortunately common for workers to face subtle retaliation in the form of worse performance reviews or low-level disciplinary actions.

The company may try to establish a falsified chain of evidence to justify firing you or demoting you later. When there is no specific cause for a low performance review or when the company disciplines you differently than other workers, that is a warning sign that these actions have an ulterior motive. 

They fire you or lay you off at the first opportunity

Your relationship with the company may never bounce back from you asserting your rights if a toxic culture at the business views those who assert their rights and not their abusers as the problem.

Some workers might find themselves terminated without cause within days of making a complaint. Others might go several weeks or even months before between when they speak up about problems on the job and when the company lets them go for questionable reasons.

Understanding that retaliatory behaviors are a violation of your employment rights can help you fight back when your company handles your complaint of discrimination or harassment inappropriately.