There are laws in place to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. Federal laws enacted to protect employees include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act: Makes it unlawful to discharge or discriminate against any employee because of filing a complaint or being willing to testify on a complaint.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act: Protects employees who make workplace safety and health complaints.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: Protects workers with disabilities in the workplace against discrimination or retaliation.
  • National Labor Relations Act (NLRA): Gives rights to workers organizing, trying to form, join, or assist labor organizations in bargaining as a group and engaging in activities with other workers.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Protects workers against age discrimination in the workplace.

Employees should be aware that many of these same laws also protect them from retaliation in the workplace.

What is Retaliation?

Simply put, retaliation is when an employer punishes an employee for making complaints about a legally protected activity, such as:

  • Filing a discrimination claim, whether related to sexual, racial, religious, or other discrimination.
  • Questioning whether certain decisions or conduct of the employer are unlawful.
  • Discussing the employer’s practices with other employees.
  • Supporting a colleague’s discrimination or retaliation claim or internal complaint.
  • Submitting an internal complaint of discrimination, including an informal or verbal complaint.
  • Requesting medical or maternity leave or a disability accommodation.
  • Acting as a whistleblower.

What Does Retaliation Look Like?

Retaliation can take many forms, and it may sometimes be difficult to notice. It does not mean just firing or demotion. Retaliation can include the following negative employment actions:

  • Firing, demoting, or suspending an employee.
  • Reducing an employee’s salary or benefits/eliminating benefits.
  • Refusing to promote the employee.
  • Issuing a negative performance review that is not accurate.
  • Creating an uncomfortable work environment.
  • Starting rumors or gossip about the employee.
  • Writing up the employee for insubordination or other claims.
  • Taking responsibilities away from the employee.
  • Taking disciplinary actions, such as putting the employee on probation or issuing warnings.
  • Transferring the employee to a different department or area.
  • Harassing the employee.
  • Taking away important clients or sales territories.
  • Excluding the employee from training or learning opportunities.
  • Denying the employee mentoring opportunities.

The above is not an exhaustive list of adverse employment actions. But suppose you have made a complaint or claim of harassment or discrimination and experienced any of the above. In that case, there is a possibility of illegal employer retaliation. A lawyer can help you understand if it is and your options for justice.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Retaliation?

The first time you notice suspicious behavior, begin a file of information. Note dates and circumstances of the behavior and describe in detail what is occurring, including conversations and other actions. Make copies of emails and other documents. Keep this file separate from your work files and off your work computer.

Then, talk to your supervisor or a human resources representative about what you are experiencing. You have the right to ask specific questions and to expect answers. Some answers may provide a reasonable explanation for specific actions, such as being moved to the day shift because an opening came up and you had seniority.

If your employer cannot give you a legitimate reason for specific actions, voice the concern that you are being retaliated against. You should use your notes to explain that adverse actions began after you made a complaint or claim against the employer or an employee.

It is doubtful that the employer will admit retaliation. You may have to take your concerns to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or New Jersey’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Division.

You should also consider consulting with an employment lawyer if you suspect retaliation, especially if you have been fired or have lost significant wages. A lawyer can tell you how strong your case is and what compensation you may be able to recover. 

The Marlton Employment Lawyers Advocate for Employee Rights in the Workplace

Every employee has rights in the workplace, including the right not to be discriminated against, harassed, or face retaliation. Let the Marlton employment lawyers at Burnham Douglass be your partner in finding justice and fairness in the workplace. Call us today at 856-751-5505 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. We have offices in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, and proudly serve clients in South Jersey, Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic