As employers strive to create equitable and safe workplaces, claims of discrimination or other violations of employee rights may be among the most serious allegations they face. When confronted with these situations, employees should be knowledgeable about the law and their options for responding if an accusation has merit – such as pursuing a retaliation case.
Retaliation cases are complex. Consequently, the outcome will be heavily influenced by how well-prepared an employer is before attempting to bring a claim against an alleged offender.
To safeguard yourself as an employee or common individual from potential workplace retaliation, we’ll discuss what makes a strong retaliation case and provide strategies to prepare and protect your rights for any future legal challenges.
Understanding the Legal Definition of Retaliation
Retaliation can take many forms and is defined differently depending on the type of work you are doing. Generally speaking, retaliation occurs when an individual takes a negative action against another person for engaging in legally protected activity. This could be anything from reporting safety violations or discrimination to participating in a union-organizing effort.
In addition to this general definition, the law provides different standards and defines what constitutes illegal retaliatory conduct in specific employment contexts. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for any employer to discriminate against an employee who filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Similarly, under Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), employers may not discharge or discriminate against any employee for participating in ERISA-covered plans or activities.
This includes any type of discrimination or harassment based on the following:
- National origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Disability status / Medical Condition / Handicap
Any actions taken against an employee as a result of such complaints are considered retaliation. It is important to note that employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees who make good-faith complaints about violations of law or employer policies. Retaliation can also occur even if the employee’s complaint turns out to be unfounded.
What matters is whether the employer took adverse action against the employee due to the complaint, not whether the complaint was valid. If an employee feels they have been retaliated against, they should consider seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney to discuss their options and ensure their rights are protected.
You need to understand that retaliation in the workplace is illegal and can have serious consequences for both employees and employers. With this understanding, employers and employees alike can confidently handle any disputes that may arise.
What Constitutes Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination can manifest itself in the workplace in several ways. These include:
- Unfair treatment of certain employees based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or medical condition/disability status. Discrimination can include different standards for hiring or promotion and unfair pay practices.
- Harassment is another form of discrimination involving offensive comments or jokes about a person’s race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It can also include unwelcome physical contact or other types of conduct that create a hostile work environment or interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their job duties.
- Retaliation is another form of discrimination when an employer punishes an employee for complaining about workplace discrimination or participating in a discrimination investigation.
Employers must ensure that their workplaces are free from discrimination and harassment. They should have policies to address any concerns over discriminatory behavior and create a culture that promotes fairness and respect for all employees. Employees who feel discriminated against should report incidents to human resources or supervisors, and can certainly contact an attorney to discuss their options.
Discrimination in the workplace is against the law and can have serious consequences for employers who do not take steps to ensure it does not occur. Any employee or employer involved in a dispute should seek the advice of an experienced legal counsel to ensure their rights are protected.
How to Develop a Strong Case with Evidence
Once an employee has gathered the documentation necessary to establish their retaliation case, developing a strategy for presenting this evidence is necessary. It is essential to create a well-crafted narrative that tells the story of what happened clearly and concisely.
Start by writing down the details surrounding the incident that precipitated the alleged retaliatory action. Ensure to include information about witnesses who might have seen or heard events related to the incident. This will help establish credibility and provide additional support for your storyline.
It is also important to state what steps were taken after the incident, such as seeking legal advice or filing a complaint with HR. Documenting these efforts demonstrates that you took reasonable action in response to the incident.
When constructing your case, avoid using overly dramatic or accusatory language. Instead, focus on facts and objective evidence. This will show that you are taking a professional approach to the situation and are not driven by purely emotional arguments.
Be sure to clarify that any adverse action taken against you was due to your protected activity rather than performance issues or other matters unrelated to the incident. Demonstrate how such action has caused financial losses or other consequences due to the retaliatory behavior.
Finally, be prepared to answer questions about how the retaliation impacted your work performance and co-worker relationships. Showing how the retaliation has affected you personally can be a powerful way to make your case.
Examples of Legally Acceptable Retaliation Cases
Here are some examples of legally acceptable retaliation cases from an employee’s perspective:
- Reporting Illegal Activities: Employees who report unlawful activities within their organization, such as sexual harassment or discrimination, can take legal action if they face any kind of retaliation. This protection also applies to employees who assist with investigations into these matters.
- Filing A Discrimination Complaint: If an employee feels that they have been discriminated against or harassed, they may file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is illegal if an employer retaliates against them for taking this action.
- Refusing To Break The Law: Employees have the right to refuse to participate in any activity they believe to be illegal or unethical. If an employer retaliates against such an employee by terminating their employment, it could be considered legally actionable retaliation.
- Requesting Accommodations For A Disability: Employers are legally obligated to make adequate accommodations for workers who require them due to a disability or medical condition under state law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for requesting such accommodations.
- Participating In A Union: Employees who participate in union activities, such as forming a union or engaging in collective bargaining, cannot be retaliated against by their employers. This protection applies regardless of whether the employer recognizes the union or not.
It’s important to remember that this list is not exhaustive. Other examples may exist depending on the circumstances of each case if you feel that your rights have been violated or you believe you have experienced any kind of retaliation due to engaging in legally protected activities, seek legal advice immediately.
We fight for every employee’s rights
A strong retaliation case requires substantial evidence and a thorough understanding of the applicable laws. You should always have an experienced and trusted law firm by your side every step of the way.
Here at Fogelman Law Firm, we bring decades of experience in fighting for workers’ rights, ensuring employees keep their employment positions, wages, benefits, and even reinstatement regarding retaliatory actions.
Plus, our passion for justice and high-value client service have helped us become nationally recognized as one of the premier law firms dedicated to protecting employee rights. Whether it is a wrongful discharge, wage theft lawsuit, or other legal issue affecting you, contact us today to learn how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you soon!