Workplace Retaliation: What It Is And How To Prevent

workplace retaliation

Employees may believe they are the victim of workplace retaliation if they feel that their manager has treated them unfairly or inappropriately after they took an action that was protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. To ensure that appropriate investigations are conducted when staff members report this kind of behavior, supervisors, human resources staff, and other staff members should become educated on the definition of workplace retaliation. Recognizing workplace and employment retaliation enables employers to take proactive measures to stop similar incidents in the future.

What is Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation happens when an employer penalizes a worker for partaking in legally protected activity. Retaliation may take the form of any unfavorable work action, including promotion, discipline, termination, pay reduction, or job or shift reassignment. However, retaliation can also be subtler.

When an employee is fired, for instance, it is obvious that the employer has taken a negative action. But on occasion, it’s not. Whenever that occurs, the U.S. The circumstances of the case must be taken into account by, Supreme Court. A change in shift, for instance, might not bother many workers, but it might be disastrous for a parent with young children and a less accommodating schedule.

It qualifies as unlawful retaliation if the employer’s adverse action would discourage a sensible person from filing a complaint in the circumstances.

workplace retaliation

6 Signs of Retaliation at Work

So, if you report retaliation at work, what negative actions should you watch out for?

1. You’re Excluded or Left Out

Sadly, bullying continues sometimes even after students graduate from elementary school. Indeed, it’s a tactic colleague may use to keep you out of discussions about the workplace. You’ll also know they’re leaving you out if you see that all of your coworkers are participating in a meeting while you’re still seated at your desk.

Do you remember the famous scene from “Office Space” where Milton must relocate his desk to the basement, right? Although it wasn’t as a result of his complaint, if it occurs to you as well, it’s likely that you are the victim of reprisal.

2. You’re Reassigned to a Different Shift or Department

Moving a worker to a different department or changing their shift is another form of retaliation. You used to design campaigns for the marketing department, so why are you now stuck doing reception work?

Additionally, perhaps you have a day job at a call center. After complaining, your manager abruptly assigns you to the graveyard shift. These circumstances make your life more difficult, which is a common motive for workplace reprisals.

3. You’re Passed Over for a Promotion or Raise

You’ve submitted a form to be promoted internally. You received a strong endorsement from your manager. And the new department you’d be working in virtually assures you of getting the job.

You then made a complaint to human resources. You received sexist remarks from a coworker who also happens to be friends with someone in the new department.

The next thing you know, a less experienced junior employee has been promoted, and no one will explain why. When you ask your boss about it, he gives you the silent treatment, and no one in the other department is returning your emails. Sounds like retaliation for making that complaint.

4. Your Pay or Hours are Cut

It’s possible that you get to keep working at the same place and don’t need to relocate. Your employment with the company is now in jeopardy, though, out of nowhere. Only by accepting a pay cut will you be able to keep your job.

It’s odd that nobody else in your department had to accept a pay decrease. And it’s even stranger when a colleague with whom you recently completed a project receives a bonus.

Your hours being drastically cut back is yet another form of retaliation. An average of 30 hours per week are spent working at a sandwich shop’s counter. But then you discover that you’re only putting in 25 hours after you file a complaint. Eventually, you are down to 10 hours from the initial 15 hours.

Although it is less obvious, losing the ability to work is just as bad as losing money.

5. You Encounter More Harassment or Bullying

After filing a complaint, it’s not unusual to encounter new instances of bullying or harassment.

In the event that you report a well-liked supervisor for sexual harassment, for instance, other employees may spread rumors that you made up the entire incident in order to garner attention.

Intimidation strategies may also be used against you. For instance, a manager could threaten to fire you if you don’t stop taking action. Alternatively, you might receive emails or notes that appear to be anonymous encouraging you to drop your complaint.

6. You’re Fired from Your Job

This one should be fairly self-explanatory. Let’s say that despite doing the same work, men and women are not paid the same at your place of employment, and you want to complain about this. Your employment is lost the next thing you know.

One of the harshest forms of retaliation is terminating your employment with the company, but this does occur. Furthermore, it is retaliation if the reason for the termination was your complaint.

Retaliation Complaints Are on the Rise

The good news is that more and more workers are becoming aware of the warning signs and comprehending how to establish retaliation at work. The number of retaliation claims has significantly increased over time(opens in new tab). Allegations of retaliation accounted for 42.8% of all complaints received by the EEOC in 2014 alone.

So if you experience:

  • Exclusion
  • Reassignment
  • Advancement blocking
  • Pay Cuts
  • Bullying
  • Termination

Workplace reprisal could be the cause. And if so, be aware that you’re covered under workplace retaliation law.

workplace retaliation

When is Retaliation Prohibited?

When employees report workplace retaliation or discrimination, either internally or to an outside agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), they are protected from retaliation by federal law. That holds true so long as the claim was made in good faith, even if it turns out to be unfounded.

Employees who assist with EEOC investigations or testify in EEOC litigation or investigations are also protected by the law. An employee’s involvement as a witness in an internal investigation is also protected, according to a recent Supreme Court decision. And various federal laws protect other types of activities, such as “whistleblowers” who complain of unsafe working conditions or those who take legally-protected FMLA leave.

In addition, some state laws forbid employers from firing workers in retaliation for other offenses, such as making a workers’ compensation claim.

How Do You Know If Your Employer is Retaliating Against You?

It can be challenging to tell when your employer is acting unfairly toward you. Your supervisor’s attitude and demeanor might change, for instance, if you complain about his harassing behavior. Even if he isn’t as friendly as he once was, it isn’t retaliation if the change results in him acting more professionally toward you. Retaliatory actions only take place when changes have a negative impact on your job.

On the other hand, you will have good reason to be suspicious if something obviously unfavorable occurs soon after you file a complaint. For example, you might have a case if your boss fired you for not being a “team player” a week after you complained to management about him sexually harassing you. But keep in mind that not all retaliatory behavior is obvious or indisputably indicative of a threat to your job. It might take the shape of an abrupt and unfairly negative performance review, the boss micromanaging everything you do, or an abrupt exclusion from staff meetings on a project you’ve been working on.

What to Do If You Suspect Retaliation

Speak to your supervisor or a human resources representative first to find out the reasons behind these unfavorable actions if you believe your employer is being vindictive toward you. Asking specific queries is appropriate. Your employer may have a perfectly valid justification, such as the fact that you were promoted as a result of a long history of performance issues or that you were transferred to the day shift because there was an opening.

Express your worry that you are being punished if your employer is unable to provide a justification. Your employer will undoubtedly deny it, but in reality, they are capable of taking retaliation without being aware of it. Point out that the bad deed only happened as a result of your complaint, and demand an immediate halt to it.

You might need to take your complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the fair employment agency in your state if the employer won’t acknowledge its errors or make the necessary corrections.

Building a Case of Retaliation

You must demonstrate a connection between your complaint (or other behavior you believe caused the retaliation) and the employer’s retaliatory behavior if you believe there has been retaliation and your employer refuses to fix the issue. The more supporting data you have for your claim, the better.

Create a record of the purportedly vindictive actions to achieve this. Additionally, keep a record of the facts that occurred before you filed your complaint. For instance, if your boss criticizes your work performance after you file a complaint, be sure to find any emails or other records that indicate your boss approved of your performance prior to the complaint.

How to Prevent Workplace Retaliation

You can prevent workplace retaliation in your office if you take the right precautions. Follow these steps to help prevent workplace retaliation:

Create policies that outline your company’s retaliation guidelines

Retaliation in the workplace is defined in detail in a policy, which should be distributed to all staff members as well as company executives. Incorporate a section on workplace retaliation and a description of your anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies into your employee handbook. This policy ought to give workers the confidence to report any allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation to management or the human resources department without fear of retaliation.

Train all staff members on these guidelines

After giving your staff a chance to review these rules and policies, hold training sessions to make sure they fully comprehend them. Hold a presentation for staff members on what constitutes workplace retaliation. Provide someone else to train the personnel in charge of handling retaliation claims. Hold a final training session to educate managers on how to avoid retaliation at work.

Provide an official document attesting to the holding of these training sessions after they are completed. To demonstrate that they have received the training and comprehend the material presented, have each employee sign and date the document. Keep these records on hand for reference later.

Hold disciplinary meetings with employees, and report them all to human resources

Each disciplinary meeting should be reported to human resources before the meeting with the employee, even if the supervisor is disciplining the employee for good cause. Tell the manager to note the reason for the meeting, and ask human resources for permission before implementing the disciplinary action. This ensures that the action is appropriate in the event that an employee complains that it constitutes workplace retaliation.

Document and keep files of each meeting and warning

To prove they distributed warnings before taking action, the supervisor should record each disciplinary or warning meeting. In order to demonstrate that the employee displayed subpar work performance or inappropriate behavior, managers should also collect emails, files, and projects. The best way to stop workplace retaliation is to keep a ton of records that support the decisions made by your company’s executives and managers.

Make sure your employees’ information remains confidential

If any of your employees have grievances against company executives, managers, or supervisors, encourage them to first meet with the human resources division. The human resources representative should guarantee the confidentiality of any information the employee discloses during the meeting. Additionally, they must reassure the worker that they are safe from any conceivable reprisals stemming from this complaint.

The human resources representative should review your company’s retaliation policy in the employee handbook with the employee if they believe they are a victim of workplace retaliation to ensure that their claim is legitimate.

FAQs About Workplace Retaliation

workplace retaliation

Here are some frequently asked questions managers may have regarding workplace retaliation policies:

What Are Examples of Other EEOC-protected Activities?

Employees who participate in certain legally protected activities are not subject to a reprimand from their managers or employers. Examples of EEOC-protected activities are:

  • Making formal complaints to human resources or management about discrimination at work from a fellow employee or a supervisor
  • Taking part in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit against the company
  • Filing a discrimination charge against a manager or other company leaders

What Are Examples of False Workplace Retaliation Claims?

When a supervisor’s actions are appropriate, an employee may occasionally mistakenly believe they are experiencing workplace retaliation. Here are some examples of instances when a workplace retaliation claim may be false:

  • If a supervisor has documented proof of workplace performance issues with an employee and gives a negative evaluation
  • When a manager gives an employee several warnings regarding documented complaints of inappropriate behavior and eventually lets them go
  • If a manager disciplines an employee who regularly clocks in late to work

How Do I Investigate If An Employee Makes a Workplace Retaliation Claim?

You can look into the claim if one of your employees approaches a member of human resources and says they believe a supervisor is retaliating against them. Organize a meeting between human resources and the supervisor to discuss your policy on workplace retaliation and to hear the supervisor’s point of view.

To get a different perspective on the situation, you should also speak with any employees who regularly observe interactions between the employee and manager. Then, you can gather records and information that might serve as evidence of whether or not the manager took adverse action against the employee. When finishing this investigation, keep all personal information private.

Is Workplace Retaliation the Same as Employee Retaliation?

Employee retaliation is when an employee takes action against their employer, whereas workplace retaliation refers to actions taken by managers, supervisors, and coworkers against employees. For instance, a worker who feels they were unjustly disciplined, fired, or laid off may retaliate by writing a bad review of their employer online or by spreading rumors about the business or its personnel.