When you stand up and let your employer know that something wrong has happened, you expect them to make it right. Whether you discovered that people in the billing department have engaged in Medicaid fraud and report that to company management or need to alert human resources to the fact that you have endured sexual harassment or racial discrimination on the job, your company should take steps against the people doing wrong, not the person reporting it.
Unfortunately, retaliation or punishing people for speaking up continues to happen at businesses every year. In fact, it is the top-reported discrimination complaints made by workers. Although there are countless circumstances in which the company might retaliate against a worker, the following three are some of the most common scenarios.
- The company transfers or demotes the person facing harassment or discrimination
Sometimes workplace dynamics are what allow discrimination or harassment to occur. When a worker reports that their supervisor or someone with some degree of authority over their current job has discriminated against or harassed them, the company needs to investigate that claim.
During that investigation, instead of temporarily transferring the worker accused of misconduct, they punish the person who made the report by demoting them, changing their shift or moving them to another department. That is a common kind of retaliation that can have a long-term effect on your career success.
- Your company takes steps to fire you as soon as you speak up
You’ve always had a pristine work history and a near-perfect attendance record. Despite never having had performance or disciplinary issues before, the company starts finding reasons to write you up after you make a complaint in-house or become a whistleblower to a federal agency.
If the business now has a different standard for your performance or if they punish you for things they ignore in other workers, their behavior may be retaliation rather than actual discipline.
- The work environment becomes personally hostile to you
Whether you report lawbreaking by the company or misconduct by a specific worker, you should not face personal retribution from management and human resources. Unfortunately, sometimes companies make life miserable for those who complain. Spreading gossip or giving too much information about the nature of a complaint might lead to a worker who spoke up for themselves becoming ostracized at work.
If your company has attempted to punish you, treated you differently or fired you because you spoke up against illegal behavior or discrimination on the job, their actions may comprise retaliation, a violation of federal law. Fighting back can help you recover from the retaliation and remind your employer why they shouldn’t violate employment laws in the future.