What does retaliation look like?

When people think of discrimination in the workplace, they often think of situations like a person who doesn't get hired because of his or her race, age or gender. In other words, they think of discrimination against people who look a certain way.

However, discrimination can also include acts against people for reasons other than appearance. For instance, retaliation against an employee is also discriminatory.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation is the act of punishing someone for exercising his or her right to engage in protected activity. These activities include opposing, reporting and participating in investigations of discrimination.

In other words, if you report discrimination or refuse to take part in discriminatory behaviors in the workplace, you have protection from many actions. These actions include:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Undesirable relocation
  • Unfair (and unwarranted) negative performance evaluations
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Purposeful attempts to make your work more difficult
  • Threats

It is important to note that these actions must be in response to your protected activity. This can be a difficult connection to make, as employers can still discipline a worker for other reasons. However, with legal guidance, it can be easier to connect the dots and build a case for retaliation. 

Protecting yourself from retaliation

If you fear retaliation by an employer, collecting relevant information is crucial. This includes:

  • Emails
  • Statements from witnesses and coworkers
  • Performance reviews
  • Responses from an employer about your initial activity
  • Anything else that can add context to an adverse action

You can also talk to an attorney about your situation. Discussing your specific case can help you better understand the legal remedies that may be available.

Retaliation is not uncommon, but it is illegal. And employees have the right to defend themselves against this and other forms of discrimination.

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