Workers in the United States have certain basic protections. You have the right to a fair wage. You also have the right to basic accommodations if you get hurt on the job and have to work with a broken arm for several weeks. Workers have protection when they went to organize a union or when they want to push back against harassment by a manager.
Unfortunately, even though federal and state laws protect employees, there are businesses that will punish workers who speak up for themselves or make use of those legal rights. Retaliation or punitive actions taken against workers engaged in legal behavior is a violation of someone’s employment rights that can open a company up to litigation.
What are some of the most common kinds of retaliation?
Termination of the worker involved
Companies technically have the right to fire anyone with very little explanation. However, they do not have the right to fire workers as a punishment for making use of their rights.
If a company terminates a worker immediately after they report misconduct or ask for different job responsibilities during medical treatment, their termination may be a form of retaliation and therefore a wrongful termination.
Transfers and demotions
If you make a complaint about a supervisor who keeps touching you despite your complaints, it is that supervisor who should end up working in a different department or on another shift, not you.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of businesses that want to protect their higher-paid or high-performing employees even when they are guilty of misconduct toward other workers. If the company seeks to move or demote you after you make a complaint or a request, that could be retaliation as well.
Your boss doesn’t have to immediately fire you to do lasting damage to your professional goals because you spoke up and made use of your basic rights. They can write you up repeatedly or draft negative performance reviews implying that you are not a great employee. They might even give you poor references when new employers call to check on you. Such actions could limit your opportunities for better jobs and better pay.
Recognizing when your employer has retaliated against you can help you document their misconduct and pursue justice for the impact of their actions.