Better knowledge of worker rights may factor into retaliation claims
If your boss or someone else at work does something that breaks the law and you object to it, you may fear that you will lose your job or face other negative consequences as a result. Unfortunately, those fears are not unfounded; data from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission show that the number of retaliation complaints filed with the agency have been rising steadily over the past several years. In 2014, retaliation claims made up more than 40 percent of all complaints filed with the EEOC. The increasing number of retaliation claims may not be all bad news, however. While the statistics may suggest that retaliation is becoming more common in the workplace, they may also show that employees are simply becoming better educated about their rights and thus more likely to recognize when those rights are violated and take action to correct the situation.
Protect yourself when taking a stand
If you witness or experience illegal discrimination or sexual harassment at work, you should not have to let fear of negative repercussions stop you from standing up for what you know is right. However, because the risk of retaliation is very real, it is important to take steps to protect yourself before and after making a stand. Documenting the illegal activity, as well as your objection to it, is one way that you can help protect your long-term interests. When you witness or experience any form of illegal discrimination or harassment at work, be sure to record the date and a brief description of what happened in order to create a record for future reference. If you express your objection to the behavior, you should also keep notes on those conversations. If written correspondence is involved, be sure to keep a copy of the actual exchange if you can. It is a good idea to keep these records at home or in another non-work location for safekeeping, especially if there is a chance you may lose your job.
Retaliation is not always obvious
Another way you can protect yourself after objecting to discrimination or harassment in the workplace is by staying alert to signs of retaliation. Sometimes retaliation can mean losing your job or being demoted, but often it is far more subtle, and it is not always easy to recognize. Any negative employment consequence resulting from your decision to object to illegal activity may constitute illegal retaliation. Common examples include:
- Exclusion from meetings, decisions and correspondence
- Bullying or verbal abuse from supervisors or other employees
- Being passed over for a raise or promotion
- Having pay, benefits or hours cut
- Removal of responsibilities
- Relocation or transfer
- Change of schedule
If you have concerns about discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace, be sure to talk your situation over with an experienced employment lawyer. An attorney with a background representing the interests of workplace whistleblowers can help you understand more about your legal rights and will work with you to evaluate the available options. Contact the employment law Attorneys at Logan & Logan for a more thorough discussion of your rights and the options available to you based on your individual circumstances.