Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation is one of the most common claims alleged in employment lawsuits.  In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is reporting record numbers of retaliation claims in the workplace.

What is retaliation?

An employer may not harass, take adverse action, or otherwise “retaliate” against an individual for complaining about discrimination (either internally or to an outside body like the EEOC), for filing a complaint of discrimination, for participating in a discrimination proceeding, or for otherwise opposing discrimination. An employer also may not retaliate against an employee who “blows the whistle” on his or her employer (for more on Whistleblower protections, click here).”  Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as refusal to hire, demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment.

The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, homosexuality, gender identity, religion, national origin, age, disability and genetic information also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding.  Nor may an employer retaliate against an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim, for joining a labor union, for reporting abuse or neglect at a nursing home, or for a multitude of other protected acts.

Is every adverse action retaliation?

It is important to remember that employers remain free to discipline employees for any number of legitimate reasons.  After all, in Ohio and most other states, employees can be fired or otherwise disciplined “at will.”  This means that an employee may be dismissed for any reason, without a showing of just cause, and without any warning.  However, an employer may not punish employees for asserting their rights. Employees are protected against retaliation even if their harassment or discrimination complaint turns out to be unfounded, as long as it was made in good faith.

Sometimes, retaliation is subtle.  An experienced employment lawyer can help determine if retaliation is occurring.  Call the Law Office of Lynn Pundzak at 513-564-9999.