Retaliation is any adverse action that an employer takes against an employee because he or she complained of discrimination or harassment. An adverse action could be:

  • Termination of employment (Getting fired!)
  • Refusal to hire
  • Demotion
  • Reduction in salary
  • Poor evaluations (It is important to note that negative comments in an otherwise positive or neutral job evaluation do not constitute retaliation)
  • Negative references
  • A change in a shift or job assignment

If you think that you have been unfairly retaliated against, we can help. As your advocates and advisers we will help you stand up for your rights and fight back against illegal retaliation practices.

Three Things You Can do Right Now.
  1. If you suspect retaliation, report it to human resources in writing and contact an attorney immediately.
  2. Employees who participate in government investigations as witnesses are entitled to protection against retaliation.
  3. Document the retaliatory behavior as well as other information that supports your claim, such as positive work evaluations that preceded your complaint.

Frequently Asked Questions

The EEOC contacted me during an investigation of my co-worker’s discrimination claim. I gave a statement. My employer found out and a week later, I was terminated. Does this count as retaliation?

Yes. Employees who participate in an investigation of discrimination or harassment complaints are protected by the law.

I think my employer is retaliating against me because my spouse, who works for the same company, complained of discrimination. Do I have a claim?

You might. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that under Title VII, an employer could not retaliate against the fiancée of an employee who engaged in protected activity. Both employees worked for the same company, and the employer fired the fiancée after the employee filed a charge of discrimination. The court found that close family members such as spouses clearly are within the zone of protection, but it is not clear how far the line extends. The court did say that a minor punishment on a “mere acquaintance” would not meet the retaliation standard.

I complained to my boss that other employees in the store are telling sexual jokes and call me derogatory names that refer to my body parts. He transferred me to another position in another location. I am not happy with this solution. Is this retaliation?

This could qualify as retaliation if, for example, the new position is less convenient than the old job—perhaps it requires you to drive significantly farther—or if the new position pays less, entitles you to fewer benefits, or requires you to work a less desirable shift.

I complained that I was discriminated against, but the EEOC found that my claim had no merit. As soon as the investigation was over, I was fired. Do I have a claim of retaliation?

Maybe. Even if the underlying claim of discrimination was found invalid, an employer could still retaliate against you for making a complaint. Employers cannot punish employees for complaining or for participating in an investigation.

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