It is hard to speak up when you notice something wrong happening on the job. Most people immediately worry that reporting an issue to management or to an outside regulatory agency will result in the loss of their job.
The need for income and job stability has a chilling effect on the reporting of internal misconduct. To make sure that workers can speak up when they see something improper or illegal, there are federal laws against retaliation when a worker reports wrongdoing.
In order to invoke your protection against retaliation, you first need to be able to identify it when it happens. Let’s look at some examples of retaliation.
They demote or transfer you
When the issue involves another employee, it is common for companies to respond by separating the workers to avoid future conflict. Employees who report misconduct or harassment should not be the ones to have to adjust to a new department or schedule, nor should they face a demotion because they made a report.
They cut your hours or find ways to diminish your income
If an hourly worker at a store reports that the general manager has sexually harassed them, the company might respond by reprimanding the manager to make it look like they have taken things seriously. However, that person stays on the job and retains their position, while the person who reported them finds that they only get one or two shifts a week or much worse shifts than they had before. This can lead to a drop in income. Companies could also withhold leads for salespeople or move serving staff to shifts or sections where tips are much lower.
They outright fire you
Terminating someone for speaking up is a surprisingly common business practice. Your employer might fire you on the spot or start writing you up for every little thing you do (or allegedly do) wrong to make it look like firing was justified.
Recognizing these behaviors as illegal retaliation can help you stand up for yourself after a wrongful termination or warning signs of an impending one.