Whistleblowing & Retaliation
Equal Employment Opportunities
Equal Employment Opportunity Retaliation
The law offers broad protections for individuals who invoke their right to be free from discrimination in the workplace or who help others who choose to file a complaint. Whether you participate in the complaint process or you oppose something you think is discriminatory, your employer is not allowed to retaliate. Retaliation is any action the employer takes because of your protected activity that is intended to have a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals to speak out against employment discrimination or to participate in the EEOC's administrative process or other employment discrimination proceedings. Reprisal doesn’t have to be a tangible employment action, like a demotion or a termination. It can be more nuanced, such as a threat to take a personnel action or taking away job duties.
There are many ways you can voice your opposition to something you feel is a violation of the anti-discrimination laws. You might complain to your manager that a co-worker is surfing inappropriate websites at work. Maybe you speak up at an all-hands meeting, asking why no people of color have been selected for managerial positions. Perhaps you tell a colleague that you don’t appreciate their crude jokes. There are endless ways you can challenge what you think is a discriminatory employment practice.
If you engage in activity to “oppose” discrimination, you are engaging in protected activity. If your employer punishes or threatens you for it, you can file a reprisal claim. To prove your case, you have to show that:
- The employer or manager knew about your protected activity.
- A connection exists between your protected activity and the retaliation. The easiest way to prove a connection is to show that the retaliation followed swiftly after the employer learned about your protected activity.
- You exercised your right to oppose in a reasonable manner.
- Your opposition was based on a good faith belief that the conduct was discriminatory.
- You are protected even if a court ultimately decides that the conduct was not discriminatory.
You have a right to file a complaint of discrimination without fear of reprisal. But participating in the complaint process means much more than just filing a charge of discrimination. You might be a witness or give evidence. You are protected if you participate in the complaint, investigation or adjudication of a discrimination complaint. To prove that you were a victim of reprisal because of your participation in an employment discrimination proceeding, you must prove the first three elements above, but not the fourth.
If you think that you’re a victim of illegal reprisal, contact us to learn more about your rights.