Facing discrimination in the workplace is bad enough, but when an employer retaliates against an employee for making a complaint or taking some other legal action, then it becomes a serious situation. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for asserting his or her rights and trying to protect him or herself from discrimination.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation is when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for asserting his or her rights to report or assist with discrimination complaints. This may include firing, refusing to hire, demoting, not giving a promotion, changing pay or altering job duties.
When you have protection
There are various actions you may take that have protection under the law from retaliation. Even if you do not take formal action, you may still have protection. For example, refusing advances from a manager is a protected action. In addition, if you intervene when someone else is facing harassment, you have protection. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for refusing to follow orders that would create a discriminatory situation, filing a complaint or being a witness to a complaint.
How it happens
The reason retaliation is illegal is that employers often use this tactic to prevent workers from exercising their rights to report discrimination. It could be something as simple as telling another manager that an employee filed a complaint. It can also occur in ways that make the work environment hostile, such as making an employee’s actions public, so everyone knows. Often it happens immediately following the protected action, but it can also happen sometime later.
Retaliation is something that hurts everyone. It is not a productive way to deal with discrimination in the workplace. If an employee felt like he or she needed to make a complaint, then it shows there are issues in that work environment that need attention; retaliating against the employee will not fix them.