Thatcher Law Firm | Employment Law Solutions

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What is Retaliation?

by | Mar 15, 2024 | blog, Employee Title VII Claims, Retaliation |

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protect against retaliation in the workplace. What if an employer takes an adverse action against an employee who complains about unlawful discrimination, a safety violation, or a wage violation? Employers are prohibited from taking any adverse action against workers because they report discrimination, or safety violation, or a wage and hour violation.  Employees who experience or witness such discrimination or violations and report it to an internal human resources department or to an external regulatory authority must not face consequences in their employment for doing so.

What does retaliation look like?

Retaliation can come in many different forms. Examples include:

  • Demotion
  • Decrease in pay
  • Decrease in work hours
  • Being placed on unpaid leave
  • Being removed from projects
  • Being passed up for promotion
  • Denying or rescinding benefits
  • Denying bonuses
  • Termination

How can employees protect themselves from retaliation?

The timing of an employee’s complaint about unlawful discrimination or another type of violation (as well as the timing of any adverse actions taken against the employee by the employer) is paramount. An employee should complain about discrimination or a violation when it occurs.  It is important for an employee to be able to show that an adverse action/retaliation is because of their complaint.  If an employee waits until their employer brings a disciplinary action against them to allege discrimination or safety infractions, it is unlikely the employee will be able to show a causal connection between the complaint—a protected activity—and the adverse action.  An employee’s complaint may appear obviously suspect if it stems not from a desire to protect oneself or others, or comply with the law, but rather to punish the company for holding the employee accountable for poor performance or perceived mistreatment.

How should a company handle a discrimination complaint?

To protect themselves from possible legal liability, all companies must evaluate complaints of discrimination and take them seriously. It is beneficial to have a standard procedure for employees to appropriately voice their complaints to Human Resources, a manager, or to the head of their department. Once an employee’s complaint has been made, an internal investigation must be conducted before a finding is made. At this point, appropriate action must be taken to protect the employees.

For more information on how to handle your discrimination and/or retaliation claim(s), contact our office at 301-441-1400 to schedule a consultation appointment with an expert employment attorney today.

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