In the United States, there are certain rights individuals have secured via the Constitution. These include the right to exercise free speech at a protest rally; practice a particular religion; and love a certain person, regardless of gender, sexual identity, or the color of their skin. But there are many workplace injustices that are harder to identify than the obvious ones of racism and religious bigotry.
Since almost every American needs their job just to pay the bills and eat, if an employer threatens the job security of an employee from federally protected activities, such as demoting a worker after he or she acts as a whistleblower on unsafe work conditions, it is illegal.
According to the legal advice website NOLO, many Americans do not know that workplace retaliation is illegal, even though most understand that workplace discrimination and harassment are illegal. The same laws that protect workers from discrimination and harassment apply to on-the-job retaliation. This includes employees who take part in on-site investigations or for making discrimination or harassment complaints, according to NOLO.
Retaliation at work can involve firing, demoting, discipline, or salary reduction. However, it does not have to be that blatant to be workplace retaliation.
Those who are encountering workplace retaliation should consult with an experienced employment lawyer. With a lawyer at their side, victims of workplace retaliation have an advocate for their rights under the law and obtain the justice they need.
How Do I Identify Workplace Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation is often just that: retaliation. It may be that a transgender employee is insulted by coworkers and files a complaint to end the discrimination.
If that employee soon after finds herself demoted or her office moved away from other workers, this would be an identifiable workplace retaliation. It is retribution for going to management or filing a complaint with human resources or a government agency.
However, suppose the same transgender employee is not demoted, her workspace is not moved, but her shift is changed to a different time. As a single parent, she needs to find new child care because of the shift change, and this makes it almost impossible for that worker to get to the work site on time.
This move is not blatant, but that the repositioning on the schedule made it unlikely that the employee would be able to keep doing the job.
Oftentimes, workplace retaliation incidents are wrapped up in discrimination and harassment cases.
But it can be a worker who takes advantage of the federally protected Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member with job protection. If that person returns to work and is now excluded from staff meetings, that is workplace retaliation.
Seeing this happen in the workplace may keep people from making complaints because they know there is pay back.
However, if an employee is concerned about discrimination or harassment at work, filing a complaint is their right under federal law, even if the claim is not found to be true. Whistleblowers and those who take place in an investigation of the workplace are protected under the law.
What Actions can I Take?
Workers who are stuck in a retaliatory environment may be confused about what steps to take next because they fear losing their job.
It is important to remember there are protections available under the law. An employment lawyer can help build the case for the worker who has fallen victim to a harassing environment.
Also, there are a few important steps people can take at work.
Document everything of concern at the office or work site. The employee should everything down, including performance reviews, bonuses, and comments from management. These are all types of things that may well have changed from the time where retaliation has begun and years previous. The more information shared, the more specifics of who was involved, when it happened and what the circumstances were around an incident, the better.
Speak with the supervisor or human resources about the negative changes. The employer may have a legitimate reason for a change in work situation. For example, changing the work shift from day to nighttime will make the company more productive, and the staff is past capacity for the daytime shift. According to NOLO, if a worker does not get a legitimate reason, he or she should voice concern that this is workplace retaliation and point out that it started after a complaint to human resources or the worker took family leave or another issue.
It is fairly likely that the employer will deny that the actions are retaliatory, in which case, the next step is to go to the state fair employment agency, which is the Department of Labor and Workforce Development in New Jersey; or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Advocate for Victims of Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation
If you have been a victim of a hostile work environment and workplace retaliation, call the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. We represent clients throughout South Jersey who have lost their jobs or have been otherwise retaliated against. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.