What are the signs of retaliation in the workplace?

Gavel as a symbol showing retaliation claim laws in a court of law

The law provides certain rights to you as an employee, and you should exercise these rights without fear. Unfortunately, many employers intimidate or punish employees for doing things the law allows them to do.

Not only do employment laws give you rights, they also prohibit employers from retaliating against you if you take action under the law. Too many employers engage in unlawful retaliation and hope employees do not realize what happened.

If you suspect you experienced unlawful retaliation by your employer, whether a pattern of behavior by your employer or an isolated incident against you, seek immediate help from an experienced San Diego retaliation lawyer near you. In either case, never ignore retaliation in the workplace.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Overview of Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation refers to adverse actions by an employer against an employee in response to the employee engaging in protected activities, such as reporting discrimination, harassment, safety concerns, or other violations of workplace laws.

Retaliation can also occur if an employee participates in investigations, files complaints, or asserts their legal rights. Here’s an overview of various aspects of workplace retaliation so you can better understand how this unlawful conduct happens.

Forms of Retaliation

Retaliation can take various forms, including: 

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Salary reduction
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Increased workload
  • Fewer shift offerings
  • Exclusion from meetings
  • Threats
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Other adverse changes in work conditions

Even subtle actions that create a hostile work environment or deter employees from exercising their rights can be considered retaliation.

Protected Activities

Protected activities include many things, including:

  • Reporting discrimination, harassment, safety violations, income violations, or other conduct of an employer
  • Participating in internal investigations or cooperating with government agency investigations regarding employer conduct
  • Asserting rights granted by employment laws, including taking valid family or medical leave or filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Refusing to engage in unlawful conduct at the request of your employer

Several Laws Prohibit Retaliation

Several federal laws protect employees from retaliation, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Many states have strict laws against retaliation, as well.

Steps to Prove Retaliation

To establish a claim of retaliation in the workplace, employees generally need to demonstrate:

  • They engaged in a protected activity.
  • Adverse actions happened against them.
  • A causal link exists between the protected activity and the adverse action.

Employees who experience retaliation can file complaints with relevant government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the equivalent state employment agency. They can also pursue legal action through civil lawsuits against the employer for compensation and other appropriate legal remedies.

If you face retaliation, seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney. An attorney can assess the situation, provide guidance on protecting rights, and help pursue remedies if retaliation occurred.

How to Identify Workplace Retaliation

Even if you understand your rights against retaliation and have a good idea of what retaliation entails, it can be difficult to recognize when it happens to you. Many employers work to disguise retaliation as justified action against an employee, making it more challenging for employees to protect themselves.

Recognizing signs of workplace retaliation is crucial to protect your rights and seek appropriate legal remedies.

Here are signs that your employer may have engaged in workplace retaliation:

Adverse employment action shortly after a protected activity

If your lawyer retaliates against you through a demotion, suspension, transfer, or termination shortly after you engage in a protected activity, call a lawyer.

Negative performance reviews after protected activities

Receiving disproportionately negative performance reviews or sudden negative feedback after participating in a protected activity can indicate retaliation.

Change in general treatment

A sudden change in how your supervisor or colleagues treat you, such as exclusion from meetings or isolation, after engaging in protected activities can suggest retaliation.

Reduced job responsibilities or pay

Experiencing reduced job responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, or pay after engaging in protected activities may indicate retaliation.

Unwarranted disciplinary action

Facing unwarranted disciplinary actions, write-ups, or increased scrutiny after engaging in protected activities can indicate retaliation.

Repeated negative feedback

Receiving repeated negative feedback without valid reasons, especially after engaging in protected activities, can raise concerns of retaliation.

False accusations

Being falsely accused of wrongdoing or facing unfounded allegations after engaging in protected activities can signify retaliation.

Loss of privileges or benefits

Experiencing a sudden loss of privileges, benefits, or assignments after engaging in protected activities may suggest retaliation.

Isolation or ostracism

Experiencing isolation from colleagues, exclusion from projects or social interactions, or facing hostility after engaging in protected activities can indicate retaliation.

Inconsistent treatment

Observing inconsistent treatment compared to coworkers who did not engage in similar protected activities can be a sign of retaliation.

Any action your employer takes that damages your work environment, career prospects, or well-being due to your protected activities can constitute retaliation.

If you suspect workplace retaliation, you should document everything that happened. Keep records of dates, times, and details of incidents related to your protected activity and any subsequent adverse actions.

An experienced employment attorney provides insight into your legal options and helps you take appropriate action to protect your rights.

How Employers Deny Unlawful Retaliation

While employers might engage in unlawful retaliation, they also know it violates the law. Recognizing the potential legal consequences, many employers take deliberate steps to deny or obfuscate instances of unlawful retaliation.

These actions can range from subtle tactics to more overt strategies, all of which shield the company from liability and undermine the rights of employees seeking justice for retaliation.

One way employers try to deny unlawful retaliation is by employing pretextual justifications for their actions. They may claim they took adverse actions, such as demotions, terminations, or unfavorable shifts, for legitimate reasons unrelated to the employee’s protected activity.

For instance, an employer might argue that an employee’s performance was subpar, despite having previously received positive evaluations. By presenting such justifications, employers create a narrative that shifts the focus away from the protected activity and onto the alleged performance issues.

This strategy muddies the waters and makes it difficult for employees to prove a direct link between their protected activity and the adverse action.

Another tactic employers use is to challenge the timing of events. Employers might argue that the adverse action was not a direct result of the employee’s protected activity, but rather a consequence of other factors that occurred around the same time. They might point to changes in business operations, financial constraints, or market shifts as reasons for the adverse action. This tactic creates doubt about the causal relationship between the protected activity and the employer’s response.

Employers also attempt to deny unlawful retaliation by isolating incidents and portraying them as isolated events without a broader pattern.

If an employee experiences multiple adverse actions following their protected activity, the employer might argue that each incident was independent and unrelated to the employee’s actions. This approach ignores the cumulative impact of these incidents and seeks to undermine the employee’s claim of retaliation.

In some cases, employers may resort to creating a hostile work environment to discourage employees from pursuing their claims of unlawful retaliation. They might subject the employee to increased scrutiny, micromanagement, or isolation, making their work environment uncomfortable and unbearable. This tactic pressures employees to drop their claims or resign, effectively silencing their voice.

To further complicate matters, employers may insist on mandatory arbitration clauses as part of employment agreements. These clauses require employees to resolve disputes through private arbitration rather than pursuing legal action in court.

Arbitration proceedings are often confidential and less transparent than public litigation, making it difficult for other employees to learn about potential unlawful retaliation cases and the outcomes of those cases. This lack of transparency can perpetuate the cycle of denial and prevent the broader workforce from fully understanding the extent of the issue.

Overall, employers employ various strategies to deny unlawful retaliation in the workplace and avoid legal consequences and liability. These efforts not only serve to protect the employer from legal consequences but also undermine the rights of employees who have engaged in legally protected activities.

Recognizing and addressing these strategies is crucial in protecting employees from retaliation. With the mismatched power dynamic between employers and employees, everyone should identify when employers cross the line and take action to uphold their employee rights.

If you are in this position, you must speak with an employment lawyer immediately.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help with an Unlawful Retaliation Case

Facing unlawful retaliation in the workplace can be a daunting and distressing experience, and you might not know what to do. In such situations, seeking the assistance of an experienced employment lawyer can prove invaluable.

Employment lawyers know labor laws and regulations inside and out, and they play a crucial role in helping you and other employees navigate the complexities of unlawful retaliation cases. You already have the stress of employment-related concerns; allow a trusted attorney to seek justice for you.

An employment lawyer can provide several essential services when you are dealing with unlawful retaliation:

  • Knowledge of labor laws – Employment lawyers deeply understand federal, state, and local labor laws, including those pertaining to unlawful retaliation. They can educate you on your rights, explain the relevant legal standards, and guide you on the best course of action.
  • Case assessment – One of the initial steps an employment lawyer takes is to assess the viability of an unlawful retaliation case. They review the facts, evidence, and circumstances surrounding the alleged retaliation so you understand whether your situation meets the legal criteria for a retaliation claim.
  • Gathering evidence – Building a strong case requires substantial evidence. An employment lawyer can gather relevant documents, emails, witness statements, and other evidence supporting your unlawful retaliation claim. This evidence establishes a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action.
  • Legal strategy – Based on the facts of the case, an employment lawyer develops a legal strategy to pursue the most favorable outcome for you. This strategy may involve negotiation, mediation, or litigation, depending on the specific circumstances and your desired resolution.
  • Filing administrative complaints – Many unlawful retaliation claims require filing administrative complaints with government agencies or state labor departments. Your employment lawyer can handle the proper filing of these complaints, ensuring compliance with procedural requirements.
  • Determining appropriate relief – Your employment lawyer can identify the legal relief to help you, given your specific situation. This might include compensation for lost income and emotional distress from the entire ordeal, reinstatement to a prior position, or anything else necessary to repair your professional reputation and maintain your career path. 
  • Negotiation and mediation – In some cases, you might reach a resolution through negotiation or mediation before resorting to litigation. An employment lawyer can represent you during these discussions, working to secure a favorable settlement that addresses the harm from your unlawful retaliation.
  • Litigation – If negotiations and mediation do not result in a satisfactory resolution, an employment lawyer can take your case to court. They will present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue the case before a judge or jury for you.
Alreen Haeggquist, San Diego Employment Lawyer
Alreen Haeggquist, San Diego Employment Lawyer

A San Diego employment lawyer represents your interests when you are facing unlawful retaliation in the workplace. Their experience and advocacy can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case, upholding your rights.

If you think you see the signs of unlawful retaliation at work, never wait to seek a legal consultation today. While no one wants to take action against their current or former employer, you should uphold your rights under state and federal employment laws. The good news is that you never have to take on this fight alone if you experience workplace retaliation.



Related Posts

Title IX sex discrimination case HAE

Title IX Sex Discrimination Case Against SDSU Moves Forward Again: Court Holds All Women Athletes Can Sue For Damages, Future Discrimination Can Be Barred 

Haeggquist & Eck, LLP is proud to co-counsel on this landmark case with Bailey & Glasser, LLP and Casey Gerry.   …

Read More
Best Places to Work Cover Photo

Haeggquist & Eck named 2023 “Best Places to Work in San Diego” by the San Diego Business Journal

The San Diego Business Journal’s Best Places to Work Awards program recognizes outstanding companies whose benefits, policies and practices are …

Read More

Haeggquist & Eck Attorneys voted Best Lawyers in America 2024 and Alreen Haeggquist is voted Lawyer of the Year for 2024. 

We’re honored to announce that Haeggquist & Eck attorneys Alreen Haeggquist, Amber Eck, and Aaron Olsen have been voted Best …

Read More
Translate »