Employees are granted numerous rights in the workplace, one of which is protection from negative treatment or actions by their employer for engaging in activities that they are allowed to do by law. Retaliation applies to specific individuals and only in certain situations, so employees should be aware of the rules of employer retaliation actions.
Retaliation is present when an employer takes an adverse action against a covered individual because they conducted a protected activity. A covered individual is one that has engaged in an activity that they have a legal right to do. Such individuals are those that disagree with unlawful activities by their employers or request accommodations based on their protected class. Whistleblowers are not considered covered individuals for the purposes of employer retaliation. A protected activity includes opposing discrimination by an employer, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or requesting an accommodation for religious purposes or a disability.
An adverse action by an employer for the purposes of employer retaliation is one intended to prevent an employee from opposing a practice that is discriminatory in nature, or to prevent participation in a discrimination proceeding. Adverse actions do not include legitimate negative comments about an employee's performance, nor do they encompass annoyances or stray comments. They do, however, cover termination from employment, denial of an earned promotion, threats, assaults or negative evaluations or references with no legitimate justification.
Employees involved in a protected activity must understand that they are not excused from performing their job responsibilities or following the rules of their workplace while they are engaged in the activity. Those that have pursued a protected activity and feel that they are being subjected to retaliation from their employer may seek the assistance of an employment law attorney to guide them through their case.
Source: EEOC.gov, "Facts About Retaliation," last accessed on Dec. 21, 2014