For the most part, employers can operate their businesses in the manner they see fit. This includes determining how many employees they need, the location of their business, marketing strategies, which suppliers they may use and many other factors of the business. However, there are aspects they cannot control and there are many labor laws that they must follow. Most of these laws are designed to protect the workers and violations of these laws can be very detrimental to the workers.

Employees are therefore encouraged to report violations of the law to ensure employers are not taking advantage of them. This can be difficult to do though because employees rely on their jobs to earn their income and may be worried about retaliation if they report known violations. So, to help ensure violations are still being reported, there are protections in place for those who report certain violations or other forms of misconduct.

Actions by employees considered to be protected activity

Any time an employee complains or takes any actions regarding discrimination, harassment, wage and hour claims and other violations of laws, they are protected against retaliation. This could include making a formal complaint or even threatening to make a complaint about discrimination. It also includes participating in an investigation of a co-worker’s complaints. People are protected against resisting sexual advances as well or protecting a co-worker from sexual harassment. Employees are also protected from retaliation if they refuse to follow directives that would result in discrimination or other violations of the law.

Ways that employers retaliate against employees

Sometimes the retaliation is blatant, such as firing or demoting an employee after complaining about discrimination. However, any action that is materially adverse to the employee is considered retaliation and it is usually not blatant.

It depends on the overall circumstances, but retaliation also includes:

  • Not promoting an employee
  • Work-related threats or reprimands
  • Negative evaluations that are not warranted
  • Transfer to a less desirable location or working condition
  • Scrutinizing attendance and other work rules normally not enforced
  • Making threats regarding immigration
  • Changing a work schedule knowing it interferes with family obligations
  • Other actions that negatively affect the employee

If employers do retaliate, they may be required to compensate the employee for the damages they caused. It is important for employees to know their rights and consulting with experienced attorneys may be beneficial.