How to Prove Retaliation in the Workplace | Labor and Employment Attorney

In the American workplace, you have a right to complain about unlawful or illegal activity, without dealing with retaliation in the workplace from your boss. Unlawful or illegal activities include: harassment and discrimination. 

That’s right. Your employer cannot do anything about it. If they try to punish you for it, then you can sue pursuant to a “retaliation” claim. If your employer chooses to take action against you for reporting harassment, mistreatment, discrimination, or the like, you could have a retaliation case on your hands. These claims can be complicated and confusing, so you should consult a lawyer to discuss your legal options. An  experienced employment lawyer can help evaluate a retaliation case and assist you in documenting and providing evidence to support your claim.

Topics and questions this article will help you to answer:

What is workplace retaliation | What makes a strong retaliation case | Evidence to support your claim | Documentation needed to defend retaliation claims | Signs of retaliation at work | How to document retaliation at work | Find an Employment Lawyer to Help in a Retaliation Claim

What is Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation in the workplace is defined as an employer that takes adverse actions against an employee, because the employee reported an incident, served as a witness, or participated in an investigation about an unlawful employment practice. An example of adverse actions against an employee is when a boss punishes a worker.

For a retaliation claim, three essential elements exist: 

  1. Protected Activity
  2. Adverse Action
  3. Causal Connection

Protected Activity

Filing or participating in the complaint process.  

Adverse action

Includes promotion denial, reduction in benefits or pay, threats, and harassment. 

Causal Connection

Evidence an employer took an action against the employee who reported the incident.

What Makes a Strong Retaliation Case?

In order to succeed in proving retaliation, you’ll have to prove the following: 

  • You experienced harassment or discrimination  
  • You reported the unlawful behavior to HR  
  • Your employer engaged in an adverse employment action as a result 

Whether your original claim of harassment or discrimination was “true” is irrelevant. All that matters for retaliation is that your employer punished you for complaining or reporting those problems.

Putting together a strong case requires documentation needed to defend retaliation claims, including:

  • What occurred
  • When it happened
  • How long it’s been going on
  • Who was involved, and
  • The outcome

Evidence that Matters in a Workplace Retaliation Case

The evidence you can provide in a workplace retaliation case is key to advancing your legal claim. To help substantiate the claim, you will need as many documents as possible. They will also help to connect the dots for your lawyer, and for the opposing side, too.

Evidence varies, but to help support your workplace retaliation case, consider the following:

  • Emails 
  • Voicemails 
  • Text messages 
  • Witness corroboration  
  • Notes and letters 
  • Recorded conversations

When it comes to recordings, be careful. In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to record people without their consent. You’ll want to consult your attorney about what evidence you can use, and what evidence will have to be “thrown out.”

What Retaliatory Behavior Looks Like

There are many different ways in which an employer can retaliate against an employee. Some of the signs of retaliation at work are: 

  • Harassment 
  • Racism 
  • Discrimination  
  • Demotion  
  • Reduction in hours or benefits  
  • Threats  
  • Exclusion or being left out  
  • Bullying  
  • Passed over for a promotion or raise  
  • Reassignment to a different department  
  • Pay cuts  
  • Being fired 

Some workplace environments can be toxic, which pushes employees to take outside legal action. This is especially important if the employee faced retaliatory action for reporting unlawful behavior. Post retaliation, the employee should speak to a lawyer who can evaluate their case and guide them on next steps.

How to Document Retaliation at Work

To gather evidence to create a strong workplace retaliation case, follow the steps below: 

  1. Be certain you have documented the incident with your attorney.
  2. Keep a record of everything.

Be Certain You Have Documented the Incident with Your Labor Law and Employment Attorney

Though your attorney can help with this process, make sure you have reported the issue to your employer and to the HR department. For example, you can file a complaint, send an email to HR, or involve a third party. Anything that will help to prove your case will be useful here. Make sure your employer is aware of the situation. Include them in emails, send them a copy of the report you are filing, and confirm that you have proof that retaliatory action was taken.   

Keep a Record of Everything

At some point, you may not have access to your work-issued laptop or other equipment. As such, it is useful to save a copy, digital or physical. Do be careful about recording anyone without their consent, as many states have laws against doing so.  

HR departments have a responsibility to avoid unlawful behavior. That being said, if your claim goes unresolved, an employment lawyer can get you the legal assistance you need. An employee discrimination lawyer understands the repercussions of retaliation and can make sure the behavior and activity no longer persists.   

Find an Employment Lawyer to Help in a Retaliation Claim 

If you believe that you’ve been retaliated against by your employer, then it’s a good idea to contact an experienced employment lawyer who can handle your case. We encourage you to get started as soon as possible. 

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 today for a free and confidential consultation. We’ll get you connected to an attorney in just 10 minutes or less. 

Examples of Retaliation at Work | Retaliation Attorney

Workplace retaliation takes many forms, and knowing what examples of retaliation at work looks like can help you identify these types of scenarios, report suspicious behaviors, and protect yourself legally.

The law, both state and federal, protects employees against harassment, sexism, racism, and discrimination. The law goes further, however, and also protects employees against punishment for complaining and reporting on these unlawful activities. Employers do NOT have the right to punish employees for exercising their rights in reporting unlawful behaviors and activities, known as “retaliation.” If you’ve faced retaliation at work, then you may have a right to sue your employer for damages.

Common Types of Retaliation at Work

Workplace retaliation covers a very wide range of conduct between employers and employees and takes on many different forms. Some types of retaliation occur more often and more frequently than others.

Below are some common forms of retaliation at work that impact office and other professional environments:

Termination or Demotion

Termination or demotion. This is when an employee feels as if their job has been taken away from them or they have been moved to a lesser role or position because they spoke out or reported a concern.

Low or Negative Performance Evaluations

Low or negative performance evaluations. Sometimes, an employer will target an employee with a performance evaluation that is very low or negative, preventing them from being chosen for a promotion or a pay raise.

Changing or Adverse Work Hours, Schedules, or Locations

Changing or adverse work hours, schedules, or locations. When an employee has reported an issue or concern, the employer may try to retaliate by changing the employee’s work location, giving more or less hours, or disrupting the schedule so the employee cannot perform.

Reduction in Wages or Benefits

Reduction in wages or benefits. Sometimes, employers choose to play with an employee’s salary, paycheck frequency, or benefits. Employees might see a reduction in wages, lack of reimbursement, or holiday hours not being covered. Removal or reduction in benefits such as health coverage is also a form of retaliation at work.

Transition to a Less Favorable Position

Transition to a less favorable position. Let’s say that you wear a hijab to work but your manager tells you that it makes customers or other employees in the office feel uncomfortable. It is part of your religious beliefs and so you file a claim. Later, you find yourself being pushed into a less favorable position.

Harassment, Abuse, or Bullying

Harassment. Perhaps, a manager, supervisor, or coworker continuously makes sexual innuendoes or advancements to you. After you tell them to stop and report it to your HR department, you find a notice of termination on your desk when you arrive the next day and all of your office items already packed for you.

Verbal abuse, threats, harassment, and similar actions that are unpleasant or make for a toxic workplace environment may constitute retaliation as well. You can identify areas and examples of retaliation at work where there may be an issue with an already hostile environment by paying attention to conversations, reading agreements, and also reading the room to get a feel for what is going on. Ask questions of your coworkers to determine whether they are experiencing the same issues as you.

What Documentation Looks Like for a Retaliation Case

Retaliation claims can be complex, so it’s important to keep extensive records. After all, the success of your case will likely center around the evidence.

Document what happened in the very first incident. You can write it out in a report that you share with management and the HR department. Note the date, timeline, people involved, employer’s actions, employee’s actions, and anything else that may be useful in pursuing your case.

Note the actions that were taken as part of the retaliation for engaging in reporting activity or incident. Identifying what happened, who was involved or issued the retaliatory offense, and the timelines associated with it can be useful.

Research any information from company employee handbooks as well as procedures and processes for filing grievances that can be used to support the other evidence you are gathering. Using the company’s own words can help reduce the amount of time and resources expended on proving that the unlawful action happened.

Determining Retaliation at Work

Talking to an employment lawyer can clear up any confusion that you may have about your employer’s retaliatory actions. An experienced local attorney can not only help you to develop your case and file your claims, but also guide you through complex and ever-changing dynamics of litigation.

Depending on the form of retaliation, you may qualify for compensation related to income lost due to termination, role reduction, or hours and benefits losses. Damages calculations are fundamental to a lawyer’s services, so consult your attorney for an assessment. More accurate damages calculations take time (as significant evidence has to be procured, and the employer’s arguments have to be presented, too).

Find a Retaliation Lawyer with 1-800-THE-LAW2 to Help in a Retaliation or Employment Claim

If you believe that you are the victim of retaliation at work, it is important to contact an experienced employment or retaliation lawyer who can handle your case. Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 today for a free and confidential consultation. We’ll get you connected to a qualified attorney in just 10 minutes or less.

Reporting Unfair Treatment at Work | Employment Discrimination Lawyer

All employees in America have the right to do their job in a safe environment, free from unfair treatment at work. Unfortunately, not all employers live up to this expectation. Instead of providing equal treatment in the workplace, employers often disrespect and discriminate against their employees. At times, they overlook qualified employees for promotions, and even, engage in sexual or workplace harassment. 

It’s important to understand that these actions are unacceptable, and possibly illegal. If you experience harassment or discrimination in the workplace, then you may have a claim for damages under law. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

How do you tell if you are being treated unfairly at work?

The scope and scale of unfair workplace treatment is vast. Any behavior that seems questionable, disturbing, or that makes you feel uncomfortable should result in an investigation. 

Mistreatment, even by a colleague, is a common occurrence and a demoralizing experience. Thousands of employees everyday, face harassment, discrimination, and other illegal job-related actions across the United States. You don’t have to stay a victim. Take steps to report the issue and secure your rights under the law.

Examples of Being Treated Unfairly at Work 

Unfair treatment at any place of employment can express itself in many different ways, from wage discrimination to gender inequality, favoritism, violence, workplace bullying, and verbal abuse. Signs of mistreatment are:

  • Discrimination due to race, gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic 
  • Spreading false rumors 
  • Pay disparities despite equal qualifications and experience 
  • Refusing reasonable accommodations for disabled employees 
  • Any instances of sexual harassment 
  • Punishing those who take parental leave by docking pay or terminating employment 
  • Laying off older workers to hire new, younger employees at lower pay 
  • Facing employer retaliation after resignation or reporting unfair treatment 
  • Being wrongfully terminated without reason 
  • Forced to work in unsafe conditions

What do you do if you are mistreated at work?

Many workplaces have a formal complaint system for these issues. To ensure that documented evidence exists of a formal complaint, it is important to report any problematic actions that happen on the job. Usually, this step of reporting unacceptable or unprofessional behavior happens with your manager or Human Resources. 

That being said, we encourage you to get in touch with a qualified attorney as soon as possible, even better if you do it before submitting the complaint. A labor and employment attorney can help you submit a well-documented report. Should the situation evolve into a lawsuit, you will then have a stronger case. 

Document the Event 

  1. If you received mistreatment, the first step is: document the event as thoroughly as possible. Record the date, time, details, and names of everyone involved. Do the same for subsequent cases, if and when they occur. Document the information during or directly after the event so the details are as accurate as possible. 
  2. Next, save copies of memos or emails that exhibit illegal or unfair practices.
  3. To support your claim, the last step is: ask witnesses to record their observations of what happened to support your claim. 

All additional evidence you gather can help your eventual legal case. It is not uncommon to file a lawsuit against an employer, so don’t be nervous. This is your right. 

File a Complaint with Human Resources (HR)

Report instances of unfair treatment to the Human Resources Department (or another authority figure in management). The formal letter of complaint should describe the event completely, but concisely. Stay on target and include only information relevant to the event. Alerting HR to the problem is usually a required step if you plan to later file a lawsuit

How to Write a Formal Complaint Letter

In the formal complaint letter, you may:

  • Identify helpful actions that can lead to a resolution.
  • Refrain from making threats or getting angry.
  • Keep a calm demeanor and offer reasonable solutions where appropriate.  

If the complaint ends up becoming a legal matter, any poor behavior on your part could be used against you. As such, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney for guidance before you file a complaint.

File an EEOC Complaint

An employee that has been subject to any type of job discrimination or mistreatment may also file an EEOC complaint. The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accepts complaints filed in person or by mail with the nearest office. In addition to victims, witnesses of unfair treatment can also file a formal complaint. 

Include the following information in your documentation: 

  • Personal details of the person mistreated. Include their full name, number, and address. 
  • Name and contact information for the employer the complaint is against.
  • Description of the unfair events and the dates they happened.

To prevent the situation from escalating further, speak up. If you feel like your complaint is not being addressed, or that you can’t speak with management at your work, talk with an employment attorney for legal advice on how to proceed. 

How to Sue a Company for Unfair Treatment 

Not all situations that are “unfair” are actually illegal. So, it is important to know what is employee mistreatment is within Employment Law and At Will Employment.

For example, you were passed over for a promotion or assigned to a different shift. These events are frustrating, but they do not necessarily qualify as discrimination.

At Will Employment States

Not all states are at will employment states. For those that are, employers can fire employees without notice or reason. Some exceptions apply, like if an employer violates an employment contract or state or federal employment statute. 

Regardless if the state is California, Texas, or another state, there’s some behavior that employers cannot express. One example of this is: discrimination based on protected characteristics. Your state may include additional protections beyond federally mandated requirements, so it is important to know the laws in your state. To learn your states’ labor laws, read compliance guidelines and ask the appropriate authorities questions. 

Contact Our Experienced Labor Attorneys for a Free Consultation 

If you’ve faced unfair treatment in the workplace, you should seek the counsel of an experienced employment and labor attorney to discuss your concerns. A lawyer will be able to help you decide whether you should file a lawsuit and assess the likelihood of success. 

Experienced attorneys also have the knowledge and expertise necessary to advise you on the best course of action. They can guide you through the litigation process, help collect necessary documentation, and improve your chances of winning the lawsuit. 

Know your rights and don’t settle for being mistreated. 

Call 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney in our network. We’ll connect you in just 10 minutes or less