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What counts as retaliation and when is an employer liable?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2022 | Employment Law

Every employee in the United States has obligations, but they also have rights. An employer commits the unlawful act of retaliation when they take revenge on an employee or worker for exercising their rights under the law. When this happens, the employee has the right to file a complaint or a lawsuit against their employer.

When retaliation happens

Retaliation can happen in many different ways, but they all involve a negative consequence for the employee after they had asserted their rights somehow. For example, it would be illegal for an employer to punish the employee in some way because they:

  • Filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Informed the employer about harassment or discrimination in the workplace
  • Requested family or medical leave when they deserved it
  • Refused to follow discriminatory orders
  • Resisted unwelcome sexual advances
  • Reported an illegal activity in the company, also known as whistleblowing.

When an employer retaliates against the employee for any of those reasons, the employee can file a complaint with the EEOC or OSHA and then file a lawsuit against them in court to recover any damages they may have suffered.

Actions that constitute retaliation

When speaking of retaliation, most people think of termination, but much more acts constitute this practice. Retaliation is punishing the employee for asserting their rights. This means that any of the following actions are considered retaliatory acts:

  • Harassing
  • Lowering salary
  • Reducing work hours
  • Reassigning duties
  • Transferring the employee to a less desirable position
  • Engaging in physical abuse
  • Threatening to make reports to the authorities
  • Spreading false rumors
  • Making the person’s work more difficult

An employee can get compensation in court for any of those unlawful acts. However, they must file a complaint or legal claim on time to get it, as there are time limits for these legal procedures.

The right of the employee

Whistleblowers and people who assert their rights don’t deserve to face punishment for it. Because of this, victims can ask their employer for damages if retaliation happens.  This is their right under the law, and they can fight for these damages in court.