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What is retaliation in the workplace?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace is a serious issue that can profoundly impact an employee’s professional and personal life. It refers to any adverse action an employer takes against an employee for engaging in legally protected activity.

Employees must understand what constitutes retaliation, what protections exist and how to respond if it occurs. Being informed can help employees recognize and address retaliation, which can help to maintain a fair and respectful work environment.

Protected activities

Several activities are protected under employment laws to prevent retaliation. These include:

  • Reporting discrimination or harassment
  • Filing a complaint about workplace safety
  • Participating in an active investigation, even as a witness
  • Refusing to engage in illegal activities
  • Taking legally-protected leave
  • Requesting accommodations for a disability or religious practices

The protection against retaliation in the workplace applies regardless of the outcome of the complaint or investigation. All that matters is that the employee acted in good faith and that they provided factual information.

Forms of retaliation

Retaliation can be subtle or overt, often creating a hostile or uncomfortable work environment. Retaliation can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Demotion
  • Salary reduction
  • Job or shift reassignment
  • Exclusion from meetings or projects
  • Wrongful termination
  • Increased scrutiny
  • Unfair performance evaluations
  • Sudden change in demeanor from supervisors or colleagues

Retaliation doesn’t always follow immediately after the protected activity. It can occur weeks or even months later, making recognizing it potentially more challenging.

What to do if retaliation occurs

It’s essential to document any retaliatory behavior. Keep a record of all incidents, including dates, times and any witnesses. Report the retaliation to a supervisor or the human resources department.

Legal action might be possible if the situation isn’t resolved internally or if further retaliation occurs after the complaint is made. Seeking legal guidance for handling this process and learning what options are available can help employees to navigate their circumstances as effectively as possible.