3 things to know about retaliation
Employees should be able to count on their employers to provide a workplace free of hostile actions, such as sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination. They’re also entitled to have a safe workplace that doesn’t feature violations of established safety regulations. Unfortunately, not all workers have employers that ensure those basic standards.
Employees who experience those issues should be free to speak up without worrying about their employer or its agents taking adverse actions against them. For this reason, retaliation is forbidden in workplaces when it’s in response to an employee participating in a protected activity.
Many situations can lead to retaliation
Retaliation can occur in various situations, including speaking up about harassment, discrimination or unsafe working. Even participation in an investigation or supporting a colleague’s complaint can be a trigger.
Employees must understand that retaliation isn’t only about significant actions like termination or demotion. Other actions, such as changes in job assignments, isolation from colleagues or unjustified negative performance reviews, can also constitute retaliation.
Retaliation isn’t always easy to identify
Retaliation can be challenging to identify, especially when it doesn’t take the form of overt punishment. For instance, an employee who reported an issue might suddenly be excluded from meetings, face increased scrutiny or receive less favorable shifts. These changes may seem innocuous on the surface but can significantly impact the employee’s career and well-being.
Employees must still follow company policies
Employees must understand that participation in a protected activity doesn’t exempt them from following workplace policies and standards. Employees must continue to meet job performance standards and adhere to company policies. Retaliation protections don’t shield employees from legitimate disciplinary actions taken for reasons unrelated to a complaint, participation in an investigation or engagement in other protected activities.
Anyone who believes that they are the victim of retaliation must gather documentation about what’s happening. This may help them to tie the adverse employment actions to the protected behavior. Bringing this documentation along to a consultation with an attorney can help workers to better understand whether they have grounds to pursue legal action.