Retaliation for standing up for your own or another employee’s rights on the job is the most common type of unlawful employment practice. Many employers, especially those who discriminate against employees, take revenge on those who have the courage to complain about workplace discrimination or take other action to oppose it.
There are numerous laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. But these laws go beyond simply prohibiting discrimination of one kind or another—they also make it illegal to retaliate against employees who make complaints under these laws or file charges of discrimination or lawsuits to enforce them. And many other state and federal laws prohibit retaliation against employees for reporting violations of the law or filing complaints.
Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are experienced not only in helping you recover compensation and get justice you are a victim of discrimination, but also if you are retaliated against for standing up against it. If you believe you have suffered retaliation at work, call us today at 404-876-8100 or submit a confidential inquiry online for a free consultation about your rights and how we can help.
The Sobering Statistics
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for investigating retaliation in the workplace, retaliation is the most common type of unlawful employment practice:
- In 2021, there were 34,332 charges of retaliation filed nationwide;
- 56% of all charges filed with the EEOC in 2021 were for retaliation;
- The number of charges filed for retaliation was almost 20% more than the number of charges for the next most common unlawful employment practice, disability discrimination.
Put simply, workplace retaliation is a huge problem. And unfortunately, retaliation also threatens the enforcement of other anti-discrimination laws, because when workers fear retaliation, they are less willing to stand up and call attention to workplace discrimination.
What Retaliation Looks Like
Identifying retaliation can be challenging, and it is rarely as straightforward as the threat of termination if an employee refuses to drop a discrimination charge. In fact, any of the following actions might be retaliation if they are taken in response to an employee complaining about or reporting discrimination or supporting another employee who does so:
- A reduction in hours;
- A reduction in pay;
- A reduction in employment perks;
- A demotion;
- Denial of promotions or raises;
- Formal or informal disciplinary action;
- A reassignment to another department or workspace;
- Ostracization of the employee;
- Increased scrutiny of the employee’s work product or actions; or
- General harassment.
Any action—large or small—that your employer takes in an attempt to discourage you from asserting your rights on the job can amount to retaliation, and discussing the matter with an experienced employment discrimination attorney at Hall & Lampros, LLP, is in your best interest.
Protections Against Retaliation
The employees who bring discrimination charges against their employers—or who otherwise assert their rights in the workplace—are not the only parties who are protected from retaliation. Those employees who assist or otherwise participate in legal proceedings related to workplace charges are also protected. The intention is to stop employers from getting in the way of legal proceedings and investigations via strong-arm techniques that are used against employees who support whistleblowers.
The Elements of Your Retaliation Claim
There are specific elements that must be met in order to prevail on your retaliation. You must first establish a threshold case, including:
- You engaged in protected activity;
- You suffered an adverse employment action;
- Facts indicate that your protected activity was the cause of the adverse employment action.
The Activity You Engaged in Was Protected
There are two kinds of protected activity, “opposition” protected activity and “participation” protected activity.
Opposition activity is anything you do to oppose discrimination in the workplace. It can be an informal verbal complaint to your supervisor that another employee is discriminating against you, or it could be giving a formal interview to the human resources department in support of another employee’s sexual harassment complaint. However, opposition activity is not protected unless you demonstrate that you reasonably believed that unlawful discrimination was occurring.
Participation activity is more straightforward. Participation activity is any activity in which you are participating in proceedings to enforce a law prohibiting discrimination. It includes filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, giving an interview to an EEOC investigator, or filing a lawsuit in court to enforce an anti-discrimination law.
Adverse Employment Actions
The actions an employer might take against you that qualify as retaliation include any actions that a reasonable employee would find materially adverse, which means they would dissuade a reasonable worker from filing a charge of discrimination. These might be more serious actions that affect your income or job security, like a suspension without pay, demotion, or termination, but they could be less serious consequences, such as a transfer to an undesirable position that leads to no advancement prospects or burdensome new assignments that make it more difficult to meet expectations for your job.
The Causal Connection
You will need to also demonstrate that there is a causal connection between your protected activity and the adverse employment action you suffered. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for participating in calling out the company’s discriminatory practices, but proving that this happened can be exceptionally challenging because employers are often careful not to be so obvious about why they are taking action against you. Circumstantial evidence that tends to show that your protected activity was the cause of bad treatment include:
- The timing of the adverse employment action;
- Your employer’s knowledge of your participation in a protected activity;
- The lack of another reasonable explanation behind your employer’s retaliatory actions.
Once an employee establishes the threshold elements of protected activity, an adverse employment action, and a causal connection between the two, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate what is referred to as a “legitimate non-retaliatory” reason for the adverse employment action. employers often falsely claim that an employee performed poorly, violated work policies, or engaged in other misconduct, all in an effort to cover up discrimination. And that is the employee’s burden of proof in court—to prove that the employer’s reason for the adverse employment action is “pretext” for unlawful retaliation.
Proving a retaliation case with circumstantial evidence can be very difficult. Many times employers hide the truth and defense lawyers attempt to keep the employee from developing the evidence they need to be able to present their case to a jury at trial. But Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are experienced not only in employment law but also in proving cases at trial.
Consult with an Experienced Atlanta Employment Law Attorney Today
If you are the victim of retaliation in the workplace, the losses you face can be immense, but the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros, LLP, have the knowledge, legal insight, and compassion to help. Learn more by contacting us at (404) 876-8100 or submitting a confidential inquiry online for a free consultation.