When an employer takes adverse action against an employee for exercising their employment rights under applicable law, this is referred to as employer retaliation in the workplace. An employer, for example, may reprimand a worker for participating in protected behavior. Demotion, discipline, dismissal, income reduction, or transfer to a different post or shift are all examples of retaliation. In some cases, retaliation is more subtle, but it is still effective. For example, when an employee is fired, it is evident that the employer's behavior was inappropriate. However, this is not always the case.
According to the United States Supreme Court, the facts of the situation must be considered in such cases. Many people, for example, may not mind a shift change at work, but a parent with young children and a more demanding schedule may find it distressing. If the employer's negative response would deter a reasonable person from filing a complaint in the scenario, it is criminal retaliation.
When is Retaliation Wrong?
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report workplace discrimination or harassment. This safeguard applies both internally and externally, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It makes no difference whether the assumption proves false.
Additionally, the statute protects employees who assist the EEOC or testify as witnesses in EEOC investigations or litigation. A recent Supreme Court decision protects internal investigation witnesses as well. Different federal regulations protect "whistleblowers," such as individuals who report unsafe working conditions or take FMLA absence.
How Can You Tell If Your Boss Is Retaliating Against You?
At times, determining whether or not your company is acting in retaliation against you can be difficult. If you report his harassing behavior to your employer, he may change his attitude. Even if he isn't as kind as he once was, it isn't retaliation if the change means he treats you more professionally. Retaliatory changes are any that have a negative influence on your job.
If anything unfavorable happens quickly after you register a complaint, on the other hand, you'll have good reason to be wary. If your boss fired you after you complained to upper management about his sexual harassment, you might have a case. However, keep in mind that not all kinds of retribution are prominent or suggest that your job is in jeopardy. Your boss may micromanage everything you do, or you may be abruptly barred from team meetings for a project you've been working on. All of these are instances of unfair and unexpected employment treatment.
Here's What to Do in Cases of Retaliation
If you believe your employer is retaliating against you, you should first discuss the reasons for these unacceptable behaviors with your supervisor or a human resources representative. You have the right to ask specific questions. If you've been demoted, your manager may have had a valid cause. Maybe you were transferred to the day shift since there was an opening, and that's what you'd previously mentioned you wanted to do.
In the absence of a satisfactory explanation from your employer, you should consider the risk of retribution. Your corporation will almost certainly deny it, yet employers can react without your knowledge. Make it clear that the adverse action was done solely in response to your complaint, and insist that it be stopped immediately.
Suppose your employer refuses to admit wrongdoing or correct the situation. In that case, you may be forced to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's fair employment agency.
Provide Evidence of Retaliation as a Factor. If you believe you are being retaliated against, you must link your complaint (or any activity you believe provoked the retaliation) to the employer's retaliatory behavior. The more evidence you have, the more compelling your case will be.
How to Prevent Retaliation in the Workplace?
The most effective defense against workplace retaliation is prevention. As an HR professional, it is your responsibility to do as many things as possible.
- Step 1: The first step is to list all of the rules and regulations that apply to you. Establish documented anti-retaliation regulations and processes for reporting and investigating retaliation instances. Your company's policies and procedures must be freely accessible to your personnel. You may put them in the staff handbook, the company intranet, or a wiki.
- Step 2: These rules and regulations must be communicated to all workers. As a manager, you must educate your employees about workplace retaliation and the potential causes. To avoid misunderstandings about workplace retaliation and discrimination, they must also understand that not every unfavorable scenario constitutes retaliation.
- Step 3: Workplace retaliation, legal requirements and consequences, and addressing employee concerns should be thoroughly taught to leaders and managers. Inform managers that all disciplinary hearings must be reported to human resources.
- Step 4: Recognizing and managing retaliation claims is crucial for human resources professionals. They should also be knowledgeable about the reporting and investigative procedures.
- Step 5: Avoid Retaliation in the Workplace. Workplace retaliation claims must be investigated under established procedures. Your organization and HR should have a well-defined framework to investigate workplace retaliation claims. As a result, you will not overlook any of the method's steps.
- Step 6: Everything should be documented and kept in a secure location. This includes meeting facts, accomplishments, acknowledgment, and warnings. Unfortunately, many organizations choose to highlight the bad aspects of their work rather than the positive. Positive actions, statements, and accomplishments that can be used to back up allegations of revenge are equally important.
- Step 7: If you witness an employee who has been doing a good job suddenly being defamed and demoted, expect retaliation. It is critical to maintain an organized record of your employees' performance. Inconsistencies should be avoided. For example, one manager may give an employee bad performance ratings and negative evaluations, while another manager considers them a great worker and gives them an excellent rating.
- Step 8: Your organization should adopt policies and procedures that outline how employees with impairments can be accommodated. The guidelines should explicitly describe the types of accommodations that are permitted.
When dealing with requests for accommodations, you must guarantee that no laws are broken. If you have any questions, speak with an employment lawyer.
- Step 9: Ensure that any information disclosed by an employee with HR during an HR meeting is kept confidential. Inform the employee that they would not be penalized for complaining about their working conditions. Whistleblowers in your organization should also be protected.
Encourage your employees to speak up and instill confidence in them. Leaders and HR must foster a culture of trust for employees to speak out about retaliation or witness retaliation.
- Step 10: Human resources (HR) must be partners in the organization, but management must not utilize them as puppets or pawns. When HR is used as a pawn or tool, employees lose trust and feel insecure. They frequently leave the company and file an EEOC complaint. We need a culture in which HR is supported and encouraged to do the right thing at all times, in compliance with all current legislation.
Remember that even if you win on the facts of the case, you may still lose on the basis of alleged retaliation if you mistreat the complaint. So it's important to think through your actions before you take them and perhaps consider consulting with an employment law attorney to determine the best course of action.