Employees who have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace may face additional negative treatment if they elect to report such actions. Regardless of the specific action, if it is taken as a result of an employee's good faith report of unlawful activity, it is retaliation against the employee. Employees who are the subject of employer retaliation are those who have made an internal complaint, a complaint to a governmental entity or filed a legal action against the company.
Federal regulations are in place to protect employees from retaliatory actions. Such actions include firing the employee, unjustifiably withholding a promotion or requiring an employee to work fewer hours, demoting the employee or otherwise creating a hostile work environment for the employee. Protections against retaliation apply not only to the employee who filed the original complaint, but also to anyone who participates in the investigation related to the complaint.
One of the difficulties that employees face when alleging retaliation is that the employer may allege that the negative action was unrelated to the complaint, but rather to performance or other issues. For this reason, it is important that employees who claim that they are the victims of retaliation ensure that they are keeping appropriate records and that their employer is maintaining such records, as well. Employment records can play an important factor in determining if the retaliation was intentional or related to legitimate reasons. Additionally, the employee should verify whether the employer has a formal policy prohibiting retaliatory activities against all employees.
Retaliation against an employee adds to an already hostile or non-compliant workplace. It discourages employees from making good faith complaints regarding their workplace and punishes them for doing what they believe is right. Those who feel they have been retaliated against by their employer may seek the assistance of an employment law attorney to assist them with their case.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Retaliation," accessed on Feb. 12, 2015