Most Florida workers know that certain types of discrimination in the workplace are prohibited under state and federal law, but most of them know that unlawful discrimination still happens all too often. News reports often detail allegations of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age and other protected categories at many large companies.
These stories can come with headlines that are shocking, but the details of the stories are often quite subtle. One such detail you may have noticed is that “retaliation” is a common claim in these and other employment-related lawsuits.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what retaliation means, and why it’s so important in employment law.
What is unlawful retaliation?
Simply put, the term retaliation refers to any adverse action an employer takes against an employee. For instance, if an employer is dissatisfied with an employee’s performance, they may reassign the worker, decline to promote them or even terminate their employment. In most cases, this kind of retaliation is legal.
Retaliation crosses the line into unlawful behavior when an employer retaliates against an employee simply because the worker engaged in activity that is protected under state or federal law.
Some examples of protected activity include:
- Reporting unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment to the employer.
- Reporting unsafe working conditions.
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation because of partial disability or religion.
- Refusing to take part in discriminatory practices.
- Filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the employer.
- Serving as a witness or otherwise participating in a law enforcement investigation into the employer.
- Asking managers and co-workers about salary information in order to discover any wage discrimination.
To illustrate how a case of illegal retaliation might play out, imagine that your co-worker has filed a discrimination complaint against your company with the EEOC. An EEOC officer asks to interview you as a witness and you agree to do so. You tell the EEOC everything you know about the allegations.
Afterward, your employer seems to be mad at you for participating. You were expecting a promotion, but suddenly your employer says you won’t be getting it. You may have your hours or your duties changed for the worse.
These actions can be evidence of unlawful retaliation.
Evidence is important in these cases, and it is often difficult to find clear evidence that an employer illegally discriminated against workers. It isn’t easy to show that their intent was discriminatory. However, when you have evidence of an adverse action taken against you after you exercised a protected right, you have solid evidence to suggest what your employer was really thinking.
Attorneys can help workers understand their rights and the evidence they will need if they feel their employers have broken the law.