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What does employer retaliation look like?

If you’re feeling harassed or discriminated against, you have every right to file a complaint with your human resources department, and your employer has a legal obligation to treat you fairly. Since the law recognizes that employers aren’t likely to be happy about such complaints, you are also legally protected against your employer’s retaliation.

Retaliation can come in a variety of forms. It’s not always as simple as an employer firing you for making a claim to the human resources department or further up the line, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Some forms of employer retaliation include:

  • Giving you a negative evaluation
  • Demoting you or disciplining you
  • Reducing your pay
  • Reassigning you
  • Any adverse action that affects your ability to work 

Did you know that the validity of your complaint doesn’t actually matter? So long as you made a complaint that you felt was legitimate, the company should not retaliate against you — even if they can’t verify your account.

In some cases, companies do what is known as unintentional retaliation. For instance, if an employee regularly reports being harassed or mistreated, an employer might think that moving them to a different position will fix the problem. Unfortunately, separating the two could be seen as retaliatory, because the real issue has never been addressed appropriately. Why? The employee who made the complaint is affected and uprooted — not the person or people who caused the complaint in the first place.

Not every disciplinary action or act by an employer is going to be retaliation because they do have a right to discipline employees. However, if your employer does discipline you, it’s essential that they have documented their reasoning and that it does not come out of thin air without any documentation to back their claims. 

If you’re uncertain whether your employer illegally retaliated against you, an attorney can help you better understand your position.