Employment Discrimination Blog

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Retaliation Tops EEOC Complaints

What constitutes retaliation against an employee?

For the tenth straight year, retaliation in the workplace is the number one discrimination-related complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the EEOC, retaliation cases represented 53.8 percent of the 72,675 charges received by the EEOC from 2018 to 2019. Other top charges include discrimination based on disability, race, sex, and age. This EEOC data is important as it illustrates what types of discrimination continue to be a problem nationally. Our Atlanta, Georgia employment discrimination lawyers discuss retaliation in the workplace and what you can do if you believe you have been retaliated against by your employer.

What is Retaliation?

Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. Retaliation is against federal and state laws, but continues to occur at high rates in workplaces across the nation. Instances of retaliation could include firing, demotion, discipline, changes in job description or shifts, salary reduction, or other subtle actions.

Federal law prohibits retaliation when an employee files a complaint with the EEOC or internally concerning workplace discrimination or harassment. It is unlawful, for example, for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting harassment to a manager. Case law has also held that employees are protected when they act as witnesses in a discrimination related investigation or answer questions as part of the investigation.

Federal laws further protect whistleblowing activity, in which an employee complains about unsafe work conditions. Employees are also protected when exercising their legal rights by taking FMLA leave or requesting an accommodation for their disability. When an employer takes negative action in response to any of these protected actions, the employee may have been the victim of unlawful retaliation.

Take Action if You Experience Retaliation

If you believe your employer may have retaliated against you for a protected activity, you will first want to talk to your supervisor or human resources employee to report the negative actions. Your employer may provide an explanation for the behavior that you believed to be retaliatory, or may have no valid reason. If the employer does nothing to correct the believed retaliatory act, you will need to take action. You should consult with an employment discrimination lawyer to discover your next steps.

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