You have done the right thing and reported an employer’s legal or safety violations. Or perhaps you exercised your legal rights and filed a complaint for discrimination or other illegal workplace conduct. Now, however, you are concerned that you might face pushback from bosses who are unhappy with what you did.
Laws that govern matters like worker safety, anti-discrimination, environmental protections, public safety and financial reporting generally contain provisions protecting employees who act to prevent violations, in addition to separate state and federal statutes. In practice, it is important to know how to protect yourself, as many employers try to find ways around anti-retaliation laws.
Document from the start
First, you should not wait until your employer makes your job unbearable. If you took action you think your employer may dislike, you should be aware that retaliation can follow. From the beginning, keep an eye out for subtle warning signs and document every instance. You may not end up needing these records, but they can help you if you do end up having to file a claim for retaliation.
Do not agree to unfair evaluations
Second, when you recognize retaliatory actions, do not go along with them. Specifically, if a performance review or a write-up contains inaccuracies, do not sign off on it. If you do, it will later be very hard to argue that any adverse action happened due to retaliation and not to your poor performance.
Do not count on HR
Third, remember that your HR department is not likely to be on your side in this matter. HR protects the company, not individual employees. Likewise, do not speak with your company’s legal department. Consulting your own attorney is the best way to come up with a strategy that protects your interests.
Retaliation can take many forms. Some employees find themselves demoted, denied further opportunities or reassigned against their wishes. Others may find that supervisors turn a blind eye or even encourage harassment by other employees. These actions can make your workplace a very unpleasant environment. However, quitting can jeopardize your future ability to make a claim. Avoid doing this before discussing the issue extensively with your attorney.