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What does retaliation look like?

Employees and employers don't always see eye to eye on employment decisions. Often, there is very little workers can do in these situations besides seeking an explanation from the employer.

However, in cases where an employment decision actually violates an employee's rights, there is much more that can be done to remedy the situation. For instance, if an employer retaliates against an employee for engaging in protected activities, that employee has the right to take legal action. Unfortunately, it may not always be easy to distinguish between a negative action against a worker and actual retaliation.

As explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for asserting his or her rights. Punishment can come in the form of:

  • Relocation
  • Demotion
  • Pay decrease
  • Termination
  • Other disciplinary actions

To be considered retaliation, these penalties must be issued in response to an employee's participation in protected actions. Oftentimes, retaliation claims stem from an employee:

  • Filing a workers' compensation claim
  • Reporting unsafe or unlawful conditions in the workplace
  • Resisting sexual advancements from supervisors
  • Questioning potentially discriminatory practices
  • Participating in an investigation into workplace harassment
  • Refusing to engage in or allow illegal activity
  • Requesting an accommodation for a disability
  • Taking a protected leave

Should an employer penalize a worker for these or similar behaviors, it can be crucial for the employee to understand that it would generally be considered retaliation.

However, in many cases, these situations are not so black and white. It won't always be clear if someone was punished for asserting his or her rights or for another reason; it may not even be clear if what an employee was penalized for was, in fact, protected activity.

In order to get a better grasp on the situation and your rights regarding retaliation, it can be crucial that you consult an employment law attorney as soon as possible. If there are grounds to pursue legal action, you can work with your attorney to seek a fair resolution and settlement.

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