Employers are generally free to do what’s necessary within their organization, including demoting and firing employees. However, when these negative actions are retaliatory, this crosses a line and leaves employers vulnerable to legal consequences.
If you believe you’re experiencing workplace retaliation, you’re not alone, and you may have legal options. Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil — and the law — are on your side.
What is workplace retaliation?
Retaliation occurs when an employer retaliates against, or punishes, an employee for exercising certain rights or engaging in a legally protected activity. Employers do this to deter employees from further exercising their rights or pursuing certain activities.
Federal law protects employees from workplace retaliation. If you believe your employer is retaliating against you, you may have legal recourse.
Examples of Workplace Retaliation
Retaliation by an employer often happens after an employee makes a formal complaint, either internally or to an outside organization like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These complaints frequently concern workplace harassment or discrimination.
Additionally, retaliation can occur if an employee agrees to cooperate with or participate in an investigation by the EEOC or if an employee files a workers’ compensation claim.
Retaliation can occur in a variety of ways, including:
- Reduced hours or compensation
- Transfer to another department
- Altered work schedules
- Disciplinary actions
- Exclusion from meetings, training, or other activities
- Hostile work environments
- Poor performance reviews
Sometimes retaliation is evident, especially when an employee is demoted or fired. However, in some cases, it’s not so clear. Courts must look at the circumstances to determine whether the employee is experiencing retaliation.
If you believe you’re facing workplace retaliation, speak to an employment attorney right away.
Steps to Take After Retaliation in the Workplace
Employees who experience workplace retaliation are typically unsure of what to do. Many fear further reprisal or worsened circumstances if they report the retaliation or attempt to fight it.
Nonetheless, if your employer is retaliating against you, do not hesitate to speak up and take action. You have rights, and you can find support.
Speak to a Supervisor or Human Resources
First, it might be helpful to speak to your immediate supervisor or human resources. Sometimes, speaking to a higher-up can provide some insight into the situation you may be experiencing.
Some demotions are not due to retaliation; your employer might have very good reasons, such as poor work performance or documented ongoing issues. Keep an open mind while you listen to your employer’s explanation of your demotion or other work-related concern.
If your employer cannot provide a reasonable explanation for their actions, this may indicate workplace retaliation.
Document Every Detail
At every point, it is critical to document details of the suspected retaliation. Keep a journal and write down details of the retaliatory behavior. If you discuss your situation with your employer, document the interaction and what was said.
Information from the past can be helpful in certain circumstances. For example, suppose that you recently received an email from your employer praising your work performance but were demoted soon after reporting a concern. This email could help show the link between the triggering activity and the retaliation.
Any piece of evidence or documentation can help build your case against your employer.
Consult with an Illinois Employment Law Attorney
Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil has earned an impressive reputation as a top-notch Illinois law firm. Our knowledgeable attorneys have the skills and resources necessary to help you fight workplace retaliation and hold your employer accountable for their wrongful actions.
Our attorneys and team are passionate about helping protect our clients’ rights and pursuing the resolutions they deserve.
Schedule a meeting with one of our Illinois employment attorneys. Contact us today.