Reporting misconduct related to your job can make you feel very nervous. Most people immediately start to worry about the possibility of retaliation. If you go to management to report harassment from a co-worker or report something that violates the law, the people who run the company may not be thankful but rather angry that you speak up.
In theory, workers asserting their basic rights to a safe work environment or reporting illegal activity have protection from retaliation. There are laws that forbid companies from retaliating, but that doesn’t stop companies from doing it. Anyone who makes the report to or about their company will want to be on the lookout for the five following kinds of retaliation.
- A sudden termination
The most obvious and overt form of retaliation is the decision to end someone’s employment with a company just because they said something or filed a report. If the company terminates you without any forewarning shortly after you speak up, you could very well be the victim of retaliation.
- Inconsistent or changing attitudes about your work performance
Your attendance and performance on the job have not changed, but the company’s attitude about it has suddenly shifted with no other explanation. Maybe your boss has written you up for walking in late while ignoring the people who came in even later than you did. Perhaps you face negative performance reviews when the same performance last time netted you a glowing review.
The company might try to fabricate a paper trail to justify firing someone. Taking apart their performance and arbitrarily enforcing rules that they often let others break could be a warning sign of upcoming retaliatory efforts.
- Changing your shift or your position
If you speak up about illegal activity in a certain part of the company where you work or if you report a supervisor or co-worker for abusive behavior, the company should investigate and address the issue, not punish you. Instead of retraining and transferring someone harassing others, the company might choose to transfer or move the person who makes the report. Sometimes, that means a demotion just for asserting your rights.
- Finding a way to reduce the pay you receive
Cutting your wages or denying you an annual cost-of-living increase or raise could be a form of retaliation. The company might also cut your hours or give you fewer or worse sales leads, depending on the position that you work.
- Making the workplace a hostile environment for you
If you speak up to report inappropriate jokes made by co-workers, management should address the issue without directly involving you. Sometimes, a company’s management or human resources will give information to other employees to cause the social ostracization of someone who complains.
Anyone who experiences workplace retaliation after reporting discrimination, harassment or illegal activity may need to consider taking legal action against the company that violated their rights.