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What is Workplace Retaliation?

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On April 11th, 2018, an employee working under an Arkansas insurance company known as “USAble Life” was terminated in response to her complaints of discrimination. Now the EEOC (see our article explaining what the EEOC is), is seeking monetary relief from the employer in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits and an injunction against future discrimination. They seek these forms of relief for what they believe to be a case of retaliation when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in an action that is protected by law. This retaliation is illegal and is investigated by the EEOC. Retaliation can take many forms and is often more involved in more subtle examples of an employer punishing their workers.

Examples of Workplace Retaliation

Not every case of retaliation involves an employee being terminated. Many times, retaliation involves subtle punishments. When an employee comes forward accusing another employee of harassing them, the employee complaining might be transferred to a different department or have their shift changed. This may not seem like a punishment but the decision to transfer or change the complaining worker’s hours was a direct response to their complaint, making said actions a retaliation against them. Employers have to be extremely cautious when considering how to respond to complaints of discrimination in the workforce as action against the employee who complained could be interpreted as retaliation.

Are There Examples of Legal Retaliation?

A worker does not become immune to punishments once they file a complaint. If an employer was planning on taking negative action against the employee before the complaint they can still do so. However, in order to not have their actions counted as retaliation, the employer must have documentation from the time before the claim, illustrating their intent to act against the employees.  There are some cases where the employer is allowed to commit retaliation legally. For this to happen an employer must prove that an employee’s complaint was not sincere and fabricated. If the employer can provide proof that the complaint was insincere and fabricated, then they can legally retaliate against the employee. The actual validity of the complaint does not matter, rather what matters is if the employee genuinely believes that what they reported was illegal. If the employee is sincere and genuine in their complaint then any action taken against them, whether the claims be true or false, would be an example of illegal retaliation.

How to Prevent a Retaliation Charge.

Employers must act carefully once one of their employees submits a complaint, making sure that they don’t handle the matter in an inappropriate way. If the complaint is against another employee who you believe is innocent of any wrongdoing, then it is the employer’s responsibility to try and find a compromise between the two. The employer must remember that as long as the complaint is sincere, they can’t act against the employee who brought it forth. Situations like these are complicated and often merit the help of an attorney. If you find yourself struggling with the legal implication of your actions in the workplace then we strongly recommend that you find an attorney to assist you in your endeavors.

PereGonza The Attorneys can offer a free consultation and give you insight on what the best course of action for what your specific case may be. Fill out our personal intake form for more information.


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