Has an employer ever taken action against you for participating in a legally protected activity, such as requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability or informing Human Resources about mistreatment at work? You may be a victim of workplace retaliation. We’ll walk you through exactly what workplace retaliation is, and what you can do about it should it happen to you.
Protected Activities and EEO Law
Equal Employment Opportunity or EEO, laws were put into place as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They protect employees from discrimination based on sex, race, gender, and other protected categories. EEO laws also make it illegal to retaliate against employees for standing up against discrimination. These laws were put into place to prevent hostile working environments and ensure that employees feel safe coming forward about discriminatory treatment that they’ve experienced. There are also legally protected workplace activities, such as participating in the investigation of EEO law violations or filing a complaint about discrimination.
What is Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation is any negative action taken against you as a result of you participating in a protected activity- for example, a pay cut, a demotion, being fired, or being disciplined unreasonably. Anything that negatively affects your job and is done in response to you engaging in a protected activity counts as retaliation, and as stated in the previous paragraph, it is illegal. If your employer retaliates against you, they are breaking the law and they can and should be held accountable.
Not all workplace retaliation is immediately identifiable as such. Sometimes it’s subtle. For example, if you request a reasonable accommodation due to a disability and you are moved to a new position, it may appear at first like your employer cares about you and is trying to help you by moving you to a position with duties that will be easier to perform with your disability. However, if this new position involves taking a pay cut or exposes you to discrimination, there’s a good chance that you’re experiencing workplace retaliation. Other examples include suddenly being excluded from projects you’ve been working on or receiving an unfairly negative performance review after you put in your request for accommodation.
What Can You Do?
If you suspect that you may be the victim of workplace retaliation, there are some steps you can take to resolve the problem. The first step is to speak with Human Resources and your supervisor. Lay out the facts for them and include documentation if you can. Provide a timeline of any incidents that might indicate retaliation, along with any proof you have (emails, formal notice of job reassignment, documented complaints of harassment or discrimination, et cetera). There may be a logical reason for the actions taken against you. However, if your employer cannot give you a logical explanation, it’s time to voice your concerns that you may be experiencing retaliation. If the problem continues and/or your employer denies any wrongdoing, it’s time to look into possibly filing a legal case against your employer.
Enlisting a Lawyer’s Help
If you’re unable to resolve the problem with HR and/or your supervisor, it may be time to take legal action. When you meet with a lawyer, they’ll first need to determine whether you have a valid case against your employer or not. This is where evidence comes in handy. They’ll need to establish a timeline for your claim, so be sure to bring evidence with date stamps. If you have witnesses that can back up your claims, that’s even better. Typically, when you sue over retaliation, you’re suing for financial damages, so if you have evidence of lost wages or benefits, be sure you show those to the lawyer as well.
Need Legal Help After Experiencing Workplace Retaliation?
The experienced attorneys at Steuer, Escovar, and Coleman in Cleveland, Ohio can help you navigate the process and get the compensation you deserve. Contact Steuer, Escovar, and Coleman at (216) 771-8121 for a FREE consultation today, or visit our website.