What Is Retaliation?
It’s the plot of many movies: An employee reports the financial or environmental misconduct of his employer or stands up for a coworker who is being harassed, only to have his or her job threatened or – in extreme cases – his or her physical safety.
In real life, retaliation in the workplace is more common than you may realize and just as serious. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for investigating charges of employer misconduct, retaliation represented 38.1 percent of claims in 2012. In addition, Forbes noted that one in five workers who has reported an ethical breach has faced retribution, and from 2009 to 2011, 8.8 million employees experienced payback from their employers.
Federal regulations make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a worker who engages in conduct which the law protects, for instance, trying to oppose or remedy discrimination in the workplace, refusing to engage in conduct you believe to be unlawful, blowing a whistle on company misconduct, or protesting an employer’s refusal to allow you to take protected leave.
The negative effect retaliation has on a business’ “open door” policy and company morale can be devastating. If you are punished for speaking up, your coworkers are going to think twice about reporting any wrong-doing in the organization.
Determining If You’re a Victim of Retaliation at Work
Retaliation by definition is not bullying or harassment, though they are aspects of it, but rather an act that is “materially adverse” and likely to “dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Usually, unlawful retaliation takes the form of demotion, threats, or termination, but as a result of a recent Supreme Court decision, it does not have to be confined to employment or occur at the workplace.
Retaliation in the workplace is based in fear – when a manager or the company itself is backed up against the wall for a violation, they are going to use their power to make the problem go away, and the easiest way is to push the whistleblower out of the organization. However, the law is on your side. The EEOC, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a number of other federal acts and agencies have provisions to protect tipsters from retaliation.
Barrett & Farahany, an Atlanta law firm specializing in retaliation cases, can help you prove unlawful motivation behind your termination, demotion, or harassment and recover the remedies you deserve. If you have been the victim of retaliation at work, it’s important to show that the employer’s excuse is factually untrue, that it was insufficient to have caused your discharge, that it is unworthy of credence, or that it is riddled with errors indicating its essential baselessness.
Doing what’s morally and ethically right in the workplace should not be the cause of termination. In fact, you should be applauded for alerting management so that corrective or preventative actions can be taken to repair the damage and minimize the chance of recurrence.