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Overview on Illegal Retaliation

Many individuals in the United States have progressed in their understanding of the wrongs of illegal discrimination and harassment, and we — despite our growing pains — have made much progress over the years.  However, a person need only watch the news, attend a sporting event, watch television or read a
best-selling book to realize that the desire for revenge permeates our existence.  Our history demonstrates that revenge has and will continue to be a part of the human condition, as it has been described in the Holy Bible, the writings of William Shakespeare, and it is put on display in the movies, talk shows, and news programs that air every day in this country.

Fortunately, for those persons who report wrongdoing by others, many of our laws prevent persons from exacting revenge against the person reporting the violation.  Some of the laws preventing revenge (officially called “retaliation”) include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The federal and state civil rights laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee that makes a report of discrimination or harassment to a governmental agency or the employer itself;
  • Almost all federal laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee that reports a federal law violation to a governmental agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, or the Department of Labor;
  • Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees that engage in legitimate union activities, such as organizing, or complaining about poor treatment of a group of employees;
  • State law prohibits an employer from terminating or mistreating an employee because he or she was injured at work and filed a workers’ compensation claim;
  • State law prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for refusing to commit a criminal act, (that could lead to incarceration);
  • State law prohibits employers from “blacklisting” employees;
  • State and federal laws prohibit discrimination of an employee that must take time off for military training or duty;
  • State law prohibits discrimination of an employee because he/she serves as a juror, or because he/she complies with a valid subpoena to appear in a proceeding;
  • State law prohibits a governmental employer from terminating an employee for reporting a violation of the law by the governmental entity;
  • Federal law prohibits a governmental employer from discriminating against employees for speaking out publicly or reporting matters of public concern;
  • State law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees that report incidents of abuse or neglect at a nursing home to a supervisor or to law enforcement.

The main question is — how do you know whether you have been the victim of illegal retaliation?  One of the easiest ways is if the person making the employment decision says something that immediately suggests that an illegal factor entered into the decision-making process (i.e. “We do not want people who are disloyal here” or “I do not trust you anymore since you made that report”).  However, in most cases illegal retaliation is much harder to spot.  Because of this difficulty, it is important to pay attention to many of the same clues that the courts look at when trying to determine whether illegal retaliation entered into an employment decision.  Some of those clues are as follows:

  • The time that has passed between the reported misconduct and the adverse employment action;
  • Better treatment of others;
  • A pattern of improper treatment against others that made similar reports;
  • Improper comments or name calling demonstrating hostility for making the report; and
  • Other actions demonstrating hostility for reporting the misconduct.

These clues are not always easy to find, and sometimes require the filing of a lawsuit to root out.  In addition, legitimate business decisions can sometimes appear to be retaliatory, when they in fact are not.  If you believe that you have been the victim of illegal retaliation, please fill out and send the discrimination e-mail form. If your company has been wrongfully accused of committing a retaliatory act, please fill out and send our email contact form.  We would be happy to review your matter, and contact you about your potential options. PLEASE DO NOT DELAY, as this may prevent you from being able to assert your legal rights.

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