Retaliation in the workplace is a serious problem. It involves an employee being subjected to some type of mistreatment, discrimination or harassment as a result of taking part in a legally protected activity. Such protected activities can include filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment, participating in an investigation of such allegations, or supporting another employee who does so. The legal implications of workplace retaliation are significant, as employers can be held liable for retaliatory actions taken against an employee.
Retaliation can take many forms, from verbal abuse to demotions or terminations. It can also involve subtle but damaging forms of mistreatment, such as exclusion from meetings or important projects, or withholding of resources or information needed to do one’s job. In some cases, employers may even deny an employee a promotion or raise as a means of retaliation.
Federal, state and local laws protect individuals from workplace retaliation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee or applicant for filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 have similar protections. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 also prohibits discrimination against employees who report unsafe working conditions.
In most jurisdictions, an employer can be held liable for retaliatory actions, even if the employee’s initial complaint of discrimination or harassment is found to be unfounded. This is because the purpose of such laws is to prevent employers from taking action against employees for exercising their legal rights, regardless of the merits of the claim. As such, employers should take care to ensure that any action taken against an employee is not in retaliation for any legally protected activities.
Employees who believe they have been retaliated against for engaging in a legally protected activity can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If a violation is found, the EEOC may pursue a range of remedies, including job reinstatement, back pay, and damages for emotional distress. In some cases, employers may be required to take action to prevent further retaliation.
When faced with an employee complaint of discrimination or harassment, employers should take steps to ensure that retaliation does not take place. This includes having clear policies in place that prohibit retaliatory behavior and providing employees with training on such policies. Employers should also ensure that any disciplinary action is commensurate with the employee’s infraction and is not related to any legally protected activities.
Workplace retaliation can have serious legal implications for employers. It is important for employers to be aware of the laws that protect employees from such mistreatment and to take steps to prevent it from occurring. Taking such steps can help to ensure a safe and productive workplace and reduce the risk of costly legal action.
Retaliation in the workplace is both wrong and illegal. Employers should take steps to ensure that their policies and practices are in line with the law and that they are not retaliating against employees for engaging in legally protected activities. Doing so can help to ensure a safe and productive workplace and reduce the risk of costly legal action.