Retaliating against an employee who reports discrimination is wrong and illegal. All of the major anti-discrimination laws that are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibit retaliation against those who complain about discrimination, support another person’s complaint or participate in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit. These laws include:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender or religion
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination against women due to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition
The Equal Pay Act of 1963: Prohibits paying men and women different wages for the same work in the same workplace
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Prohibits discrimination against people who are 40 or over
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Prohibits discrimination against a qualified person with a disability, requires reasonable accommodations
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): Prohibits discrimination based on a person’s genetic information
Unfortunately, the EEOC reports that retaliation is a major problem. Indeed, for fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 30, retaliation was the No. 1 complaint filed with the agency, accounting for 55.8% of all charges filed last year. Retaliation was followed by:
- Disability discrimination (36.1%)
- Race discrimination (32.7%)
- Sex discrimination (31.7%)
- Age discrimination (21.0%)
- National origin discrimination (9.5%)
- Color discrimination (5.3%)
- Religious discrimination (3.6%)
- Unequal pay (1.5%)
- Genetic information discrimination (0.7%))
(Note that the percentages add up to greater than 100% because of multiple charges.)
Retaliation is also a growing problem. The EEOC reports that retaliation complaints made up an increasing share of employment law complaints with the agency over the past few years, jumping from 44.5% in FY 2015 to 53.8% in FY 2019 and 55.8% in FY 2020.
Overall, the EEOC says it received 67,448 complaints of workplace discrimination last year and secured $439.2 million for discrimination victims in the private sector and state and local governments.
What kinds of things constitute retaliation?
Retaliation can mean any type of adverse job action taken in response to a discrimination complaint. Retaliation includes, for example:
- Harassment about the discrimination complaint
- Being treated differently after the complaint
- Receiving a new, unfavorable job assignment
- Having privileges taken away
- Being denied a promotion or transfer
- Retaliatory termination
Unfortunately, some employers see people who call out discrimination as the troublemakers, rather than those who may be discriminating. If this has happened to you, you may wish to take action against your employer. Be sure to discuss your situation with an experienced employment law attorney before you take any action.