Employees who speak up against unfair treatment or harassment on the job should receive support, not punishment. Unfortunately, some companies choose to ignore reports or, even worse, penalize the employee. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), filing a complaint is a protected activity, and any adverse reaction by the employer may be interpreted as retaliation.
Examples of workplace retaliation
Employees who file a complaint or lawsuit against their employer for discrimination and harassment are known as whistleblowers. Both state and federal laws protect whistleblowers from illegal firing, demotion or harassment.
Here are a few examples of illegal actions against an employee:
- Rating the employee poorly in their performance review
- Ignoring or avoiding the employee
- Reassigning the employee to a different location, shift or position
- Singling out the employee to do more work than others
- Abusing the employee verbally or physically
- Micromanaging the employee’s work
- Refusing to promote or approve the employee’s raise
- Taking away employee perks or benefits
Any action taken to prevent the worker from filing a claim of discrimination or harassment is also unlawful.
Actions employees may consider
Victims of workplace retaliation should first consult the company’s handbook to see whether there are anti-retaliation policies or formal channels for filing complaints. Second, the employee should start gathering physical evidence and witnesses to help strengthen their claim.
Fighting for what is right should not cost someone their career. If the company refuses to cooperate, whistleblowers may go directly to the EEOC. Once a report is filed, the agency will attempt to reach a resolution; if nothing can be worked out, it will launch an investigation. Working with an employment attorney may help speed up the process.