Illegal workplace retaliation is a situation in which an employer takes “adverse action” against an employee because the employee exercised a protected legal right. There are a number of federal and state laws that protect employees from employer retaliation.
Some examples of protected rights are: seeking advice about your legal rights as an employee, notifying someone of certain employment law violations in the workplace, filing certain wage violation complaints, complaining about illegal harassment or discrimination, reporting certain unsafe work conditions, discussing the workplace or wages with co-workers, filing a complaint with certain regulatory agencies, filing certain kinds of lawsuits or supporting a co-worker who filed such a lawsuit, and certain instances of whistleblowing.
If your employer is aware that you have engaged in a protected activity like those listed above, and takes adverse action against you, they may have retaliated illegally. Adverse action is any act by an employer that will have a significant negative affect on the terms and conditions of your employment.
Adverse action can take many forms. Some examples of adverse actions include: termination, demotion, suspension, harassment/threats, unequal or unfair discipline, pay reduction, hour reduction, refusal to hire, failure to promote worthy candidates, treating certain employees worse than others (particularly in regard to benefit, shifts assigned, time off, etc.), re-verifying employment authorization in an illegal manner (i.e. using E-Verify system illegally), threatening to report or actually reporting a worker’s lack of immigration status, or filing fabricated civil or criminal charges, etc.
Illegal retaliation can occur at any point after an employee exercises a protected right. It doesn’t always occur immediately after the initial action. Sometimes the retaliation can occur a week, months or even years after the fact. As long as it’s clear that the employer’s negative action took place as a result of the employee’s exercised legal action, it is likely illegal retaliation.