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Retaliatory Discharge – Essential Things Employees Should Know

Dec. 18, 2017

When an employee reports a complaint for an unlawful practice or discrimination against their employer, there is a chance they might retaliate and fire that person. Under state and federal laws, an employer cannot fire their worker for exercising their rights. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes retaliation as an adverse action taken against an employee who was involved in a protected activity. Termination, unfair evaluations, refusing to hire, demotion, disciplinary measures, denying rightful promotion, and increase observation are all adverse actions that fall under the category retaliation discharge.

Which Employees are Protected?

If you report a miss conduct or an illegal activity by an employer, the law protects you from retaliation discharge. The legal protection covers:

  • Employees who report against illegal activities: You are protected from retaliation from an employer as long as you are complaining about a behavior that violates the law. Even if the employer proves that you are wrong, they cannot punish you. This will be considered retaliation as well.

  • Employee who supports and speaks out for a colleague: If you complain on behalf of a fellow employee about unfair treatment with them, you will be protected against any retaliatory actions.

  • Former and current employees: If you have filed a complaint against an illegal action, such as sexual harassment or discrimination, and the employer didn’t take any action, it will be considered as a retaliatory conduct. Also, if your employer fires you and provides a negative reference that hinders you from finding a new job, this is also considered as retaliation.

Laws Governing Retaliation Discharge

Several employment laws protect employees from retaliation discharge, including the following:

  • The Equal Pay Act

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act

One of the primary federal agencies that enforces these laws is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you have been a victim of retaliatory discharge, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.

Important Elements of Proving Retaliation

Proving a claim that you are a victim of retaliation comprises of three main elements:

  1. You must prove that you were engaged in a protected activity. For example, participating in an investigation or opposing your employer’s discrimination.

  2. The employer must have punished you in some way. For example, denying a rightful promotion or being fired.

  3. You must be able to establish that the punishment was a result of a protected activity. For example, receiving a demotion right after reporting your employer.

However, these aren’t enough to prove your retaliatory discharge claim, as it can become quite difficult if your employer can present a good reason for firing you. This may include absenteeism, lack of performance, and similar reasons related to your work.

If you feel that you have been fired because of engaging in a protected activity, you should consider talking to an experienced Roselle employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case and evaluate your legal options. Contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith today at 847.895.0626 for a consultation.