What Is Workplace Retaliation?

What Is Workplace Retaliation

What Is Workplace Retaliation?

When a state or federal agency determines that your employer acted illegally, the consequences often include costly fines, penalties, criminal charges, and a bad corporate reputation. If your employer learns that you reported them or participated in the investigation, you become a potential target for their retaliation. Even though it means committing additional illegal acts, some employers have no problem using retaliation as a weapon.

At MSB Employment Justice, we understand that you won’t always recognize when your employer is actively retaliating against you. Frequently, it feels like legitimate performance issues, diminished confidence, or a vague sense that something is wrong. In dealing with workplace issues, we provide meaningful legal assistance using a flexible approach.

If you’re participating in an investigation or considering legal action against your employer, you need a lawyer to protect your legal interests now. Contact MSB before your employer has initiated any retaliatory acts. Our attorneys listen to you and discuss your legal issues. We help you understand and identify subtle acts of retaliation. When appropriate, we recommend practical legal options and we work to give you the justice you deserve.

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What Types of Employee Activities Trigger Workplace Retaliation?

A network of state and federal laws and regulations exists solely to hold businesses accountable for their wrongful actions. Federal and state agencies prosecute these bad actors, but they often rely on insider tips to point them in the right direction. This task usually falls to brave, honest employees like you. Unfortunately, your integrity and fearlessness often trigger your employer’s retaliation.

When you report an incident or participate in an investigation based on these and other laws, the affected companies sometimes respond with more inappropriate behavior.

  • State and Federal Whistleblower Acts: These Acts cover whistleblower activities involving Motor Vehicle Safety, Security and Exchange Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and others.
  • 1935 National Labor Relations Act: NLRB regulations protect employees involved in organizing and striking activities.
  • EEOC Acts: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the Civil Rights Acts, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

Workplace Retaliation Is Often Subtle

When you’re a workplace retaliation victim, you won’t always realize what’s happening. Employers who use retaliation to mute complaints sometimes engage in passive-aggressive behavior. They often commit deniable acts that make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or persecuted. They maintain deniability by engineering adverse situations from a safe distance.

  • Reduced income: Fewer hours, lower wages, no merit increases
  • Employment reviews: Unsatisfactory performance ratings, poor references that sabotage future employment options
  • Work environment: Relocation to a high-risk department, a smaller office, or an undesirable city
  • Job duties: Increased workload, irrelevant tasks, no advancement potential, unanticipated demotions
  • Hostility: Intimidation, harassment, embarrassment, and threats
  • Termination: Firing or creating an antagonistic environment that forces your resignation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration describes these and other known retaliation activities. The list of subtle actions includes strategies such as on-the-job isolation, ostracizing, mocking, and blacklisting. When employers use subtle retaliation, it’s often difficult to prove that their actions have anything to do with your whistleblower activities or your ongoing dispute.

Employers usually execute these actions in ways that feel less like retaliation and more like legitimate procedures or even misunderstandings. Some employers explain them away using human resources-style rationale (failure to meet standards, chronic underperformance, violation of company policy.)

Employers Use Retaliation Because It Works

When your employer mistreats you or commits unsafe, dangerous, or illegal acts, they should anticipate employee backlash. This isn’t always the case. Some employers never admit wrongdoing, and never expect anyone to hold them accountable. If you file a complaint against them, you have the right to continue working your job. Unfortunately, this makes you an easy target. When you contact MSB Employment Justice, our attorneys help protect you and your employment rights.

Some companies see you and your fellow employees as programmable workers. They tell you what to do. You do it, and you don’t ask questions. When you break ranks and do something that goes against your employer’s interests, their retaliation usually angers you, but it often produces results. Employees often back down or drop their complaints rather than deal with their employer’s punishing acts.

  • Most employees don’t have the financial resources to deal with a demotion, job loss, or a future with no financial advancement.
  • If an employee has immigration issues, they understand that some employers use their status against them.
  • Most employees can’t deal with isolation, discrimination, subtle threats, and other retaliative actions on the job.
  • Single workers often have no support system at home to help them survive a job loss

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It Enforces Compliance With Unwritten Rules

Employers expect your compliance with a host of unwritten rules. You won’t usually find these guidelines in a company practices and procedures manual because they often violate statutes and regulations. When faced with potential retaliation, many employees follow their employer’s unwritten rules because they don’t want to lose their jobs.

  • Never reveal illegal company practices and safety issues.
  • We don’t discuss salaries.
  • Avoid informal workplace gatherings. It appears as though you’re organizing a union or preparing to strike.
  • Never acknowledge or question discriminatory behavior.
  • Always remain loyal. Never report your employer’s wrongful acts against you or anyone else.

It Sends a Message to Other Employees

Employers use retaliation because it sends a message to you and every other employee. It often intimidates you enough to stop you from acting as a whistleblower or filing a complaint. It also serves as a warning to other employees. When a coworker sees the retaliation taken against you, they carefully consider the potential consequences of filing complaints of their own.

It Forces You to Rethink Your Actions

Agency statistics show that a number of complaining employees withdraw their complaints and take no further action. Retaliation forces you to examine your potential for gain versus loss. You must consider what happens if you’re unsuccessful. Can you afford a demotion or job loss? Will you have to endure working in an environment where you feel ostracized or devalued? If you lose your job, will you ever find another?

Retaliation Occurs More Frequently Than You Might Imagine

Many employees don’t report their employer’s illegal actions. Those who reach out to state and federal agencies often become retaliation victims. Each year, government agencies investigate companies’ illegal acts. While these agencies initiate protective measures, they often resolve issues after retaliation has occurred. Here are a few of the most recent enforcement statistics.

  • OSHA Retaliation Cases: OSHA resolved retaliation cases under multiple statutes: 3448 new cases received, 3122 completed, 860 positive outcomes, 505 Withdrawn, 1777 dismissed
  • EEOC Retaliation Cases:
    Of 67,448 cases filed during the most recently documented year, 55.8% involved retaliation. Resolutions included 6,875 Merit Resolutions, 384 successful conciliations, 550 unsuccessful conciliations, 24,681 no reasonable cause findings, $214.9 million paid

You’re Not Alone

Employee retaliation is often chronic, stressful, and financially challenging. If you suspect that you are a victim of your employer’s intentional acts, you must take immediate action. We have dedicated our practice to helping employees resolve employment-related issues.
Our attorneys understand complex employment laws and regulations. We recognize the many ways your employer’s retaliation affects you and your family. We have learned to recognize even the most subtle employer revenge strategies through our work with retaliation victims. When you call us, we listen to you, evaluate your case, and work to find the best solution for resolving your workplace difficulties.

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