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What happens when an employer retaliates against a worker?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2024 | Whistleblower/Retaliation

Both state and federal laws protect workers from certain types of on-the-job misconduct. Employees should not have to endure harassment or other forms of discrimination because of protected characteristics like their race and sex. They also should not fear punishment if they engage in protected employment activities like attempting to unionize with their co-workers.

Unfortunately, even though the law theoretically protects workers from retaliation, it is still a leading cause of workplace discrimination lawsuits. What happens when an employer illegally retaliates against an employee?

The company punishes a worker inappropriately

Retaliation in the workplace can take several different forms. Sometimes, it involves a worker losing their job after reporting misconduct. Other times, the company may demote them. Management might offer them fewer shifts or poor sales leads after they file a complaint or ask for unpaid leave. Retaliation involves an employer punitively responding to a worker’s complaint, request or report.

The worker can fight back

Given that retaliation is illegal, the employee fired, demoted or otherwise coping with career consequences can take action. The best-case scenario for a worker dealing with retaliation involves them already having documented the situation. Clear records of when they experienced misconduct or what workplace rights they used and how the company reacted could help prove the business’s actions were retaliatory.

The more evidence someone has related to their protected workplace activities and the company’s response, the better their chances of prevailing if the issue actually goes to court. Retaliation cases often start with a formal complaint made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sometimes with the assistance of an employment law attorney. Either way, knowing what happens after workplace retaliation can help workers find the courage to stand up for themselves.