Understanding Employer Retaliation

Employees are often hesitant when it comes to calling out their employer for doing something wrong by a complaint to management or Human Resources. Most employees are typically concerned with one thing—retaliation by their employer. That same fear of retaliation comes when an employee reports the employer to a regulator like the EEOC (for discrimination), the Department of Labor (for failure to pay overtime) and numerous other agencies. Employees should know that employers are subject to additional sanctions for taking any adverse action against a reporting employee. These laws ensure that an employer does not take any adverse action against the reporting employee.

In fact, when an employee reports an employer to one of the regulatory agencies she may actually become more secure in her job because the employer becomes sensitive to the possibility of sanctions for retaliation.

We at Maduff actually had one case where this is exactly what happened. A number of employees came to us because their employer was not paying them proper overtime. These employees were also concerned that the company was already considering firing many them to cut costs. Among the employees who came to us, were two we’ll call Mary and Jack. We were prepared to file a lawsuit against the employer where all of the employees who had consulted us would be named as plaintiffs, including Mary and Jack. However, Mary was concerned that if she were a named plaintiff she would be fired immediately when the employer saw her name among the plaintiffd. Jack, on the other hand, decided he was not afraid of the employer and he became a named plaintiff. Shortly thereafter—you guessed it—Mary was let go. The employer must have decided that because Mary had not taken any action against it, its own action against her could not be construed as retaliation. But the employer did not touch Jack because it knew that if it fired him right after he had taken part in suing it, it would become liable to him for retaliation.

Understanding Retaliation, Technically an “Adverse Action” in Employment

An adverse action in employment can take many forms. It is therefore important to recognize when you have been subjected to retaliation. If there is any doubt you should consult an experienced employment attorney like the attorneys at Maduff & Maduff.

Retaliation Can Take Many Forms

Retaliation can take many forms and it is not possible to list all of them here. Furthermore, many times whether an employment action is adverse or not depends on the individual circumstances. We at Maduff have seen many cases of retaliation in many different forms. The following listing of post-complaint actions may be helpful, although it is by no means comprehensive:

  • Was your employment terminated after you filed your complaint?
  • Were you suspended or demoted after filing your complaint?
  • Did the employer cut your wages after filing your complaint? Did the employer reduce or eliminate your opportunities for overtime work?
  • Did your periodic reviews suddenly become negative when they had consistently been positive?
  • Were you transferred to a less desirable job, with or without a reduction in pay?
  • Did your working conditions get worse, e.g., less desireable hours or a smaller office.
  • Were you subjected to a negative workplace atmosphere after your complaint? This could come from management or co-workers who have been told by management to shun or refuse to cooperate with you.
  • Were you refused a pay increase or promotion that was scheduled or expected before you filed the complaint?

Retaliation is even worse than discrimination of theft of wages because it is intended to prevent employees from exercising their legal rights. This is what makes it so insidious. If you think you may have been a victim of employer retaliation or other misconduct, call the employment attorneys at Maduff & Maduff immediately. We are here to help you.