It’s an unfortunate fact that a significant number of workplaces harbor employees who engage in illegal, abusive, and/or hostile conduct. Fortunately, workers personally victimized by or unwilling to condone this sort of misbehavior may seek justice by reporting illegal workplace behavior to the relevant authorities. It’s the right thing to do—but it’s also a potentially dangerous thing to do. Employees who choose this option can easily damage their professional relationships with their bosses and supervisors. These bosses and supervisors may decide to “punish” a worker for their perceived disloyalty with acts labeled workplace retaliation.
Often this punishment takes the form of job termination, but there are other tactics as well, such as demotion, unwarranted negative evaluations, unwanted department transfers, denied promotions, and salary/wage cuts.
Retribution of this nature is illegal, however. If you believe you have been mistreated by your superiors due to your complaint(s) about misconduct at the company, you should become aware of your rights and possible avenues of redress provided by the law. At Barrett & Farahany, our team of Georgia workplace retaliation attorneys can help you fight this kind of injustice. Call us at (404) 238-7299 today to get started.
It’s the plot of horror stories: First, an employee reports the financial or environmental misconduct of their employer or stands up for a coworker who is being harassed. Then their job is threatened or – in extreme cases – their physical safety.
Workplace retaliation is more common than you may realize and just as serious. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for investigating charges of employer misconduct, retaliation represented 56.0% percent of claims in 2021. This percentage is more than double what it was ten years prior, which means the problem is only getting worse. In addition, PBS reported that seven in ten workers who report sexual harassment experience payback from their employers.
With the avid assault on employees by employers who don’t care about the law, your main course of justice and protection is filing a lawsuit with the help of workplace retaliation attorneys.
Federal regulations make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a worker who engages in conduct that the law protects. This includes:
While the fact that you have legal protections does not deter many employers, filing a lawsuit in response will. What makes this even more important is the effect retaliation can have on the workplace as a whole. A business’ “open door” policy can be devastating to company morale. Furthermore, if you are punished for speaking up, your coworkers will think twice about reporting any company wrongdoing in the future.
Workplace retaliation, by definition, is not bullying or harassment, though they are aspects of it. Rather, retaliation is an act that is “materially adverse” and likely to “dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” As stated, unlawful retaliation typically takes the form of demotion, threats, or termination, but as a result of a recent Supreme Court decision, it does not have to be confined to employment or occur at the workplace.
Retaliation in the workplace is based on fear. When a manager or the company itself is backed up against the wall for a violation, they are going to use their power to make the problem go away. The easiest way is to push the whistleblower out of the organization. However, the law is on your side. The EEOC, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a number of other federal acts and agencies have provisions to protect tipsters from retaliation.
As defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are legally protected from workplace retaliation only if they have engaged in “protected activities.” These activities include the following:
It’s worth pointing out that the law provides these protections to employees so long as they are acting in good faith. This means that they cannot be subjected to retaliation even if the basis of the complaint is later judged to fall below the standard required to prove illegal behavior.
For instance, an employee who is fired for filing a sexual harassment complaint can sue under retaliation laws even if it is determined that the incident(s) that triggered the complaint did not qualify as harassment under the legal definition. If the complaint had a reasonable basis—i.e., the employee wasn’t merely lying outright for malicious reasons—then the retaliation laws remain in effect.
Any employee who engages in protected activities is protected by workplace retaliation laws. These laws also extend to those closely associated with a party who engages in protected activities. This includes a co-worker who aided an employee in preparing a discrimination claim, their spouse/partner who may or may not have the same employer, and dependents who use the employee’s benefits.
Workplace retaliation laws are intended to protect workers from unjustified loss of employment and unjust denial of advancement opportunities. They do not cover relatively minor phenomena such as “coldness” towards an employee who has initiated a discrimination claim.
In addition, employees are required to exercise sound judgment when engaging in protected activities. It is one thing to calmly inform a supervisor about illegal or discriminatory activities, and quite another to threaten a co-worker with violence.
Barrett & Farahany is a Georgia and Alabama law firm with extensive experience in workplace retaliation cases. Our attorneys can help you prove the unlawful motivation behind your termination, demotion, or harassment and recover the compensation you deserve.
If you have been the victim of retaliation at work, it’s important to show that the employer’s excuse is factually untrue, that it was insufficient to have caused your discharge, that it is unworthy of credence, or that it is riddled with errors indicating its essential baselessness.
Doing what’s morally and ethically right in the workplace should not be the cause of termination. In fact, you should be applauded for alerting management so that corrective or preventative actions can be taken to repair the damage and minimize the chance of recurrence. With help, you can send a message of what should be. Contact our attorneys today.
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