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The basics about retaliation in the workplace

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2021 | Employment Law |

Sometimes the daily grind at work becomes even more unbearable if you are subjected to discrimination or harassment. Many employers have policies in place to prevent such acts from occurring. However, some employees choose to ignore such policies and place other employees in a situation that has become unbearable, especially if the harassment or discrimination comes from a higher up. If this happens to you, you may want to report the situation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, you may fear that you will lose your job or otherwise be mistreated if you do so. Fortunately, the EEOC has rules that prevent such acts.

Protection for “protected activity”

Under EEO laws, a job applicant or employee cannot be discriminated against or harassed for asserting their rights. These rights are referred to as “protected activity.” Some examples of protected activity include:

  • Filing or being a witness to an EEOC complaint, investigation or lawsuit
  • Telling your employer about discrimination or harassment in the workplace
  • Participating in an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • Refusing to engage in discriminatory activities
  • Refusing to engage in sexual advances to yourself or others
  • Asking for reasonable accommodations for a disability or religion
  • Asking for salary information for the purposes of determining whether there is discrimination in pay in the workplace

These are only some examples of protective activities. There are other activities under EEO laws that may protect workers from retaliation.

Examples of retaliation and discrimination

There are a variety of activities that could be considered retaliation or discrimination. For example, an employee may give an unwarranted performance evaluation or move the worker to a less desirable position. Co-workers may engage in verbal or physical abuse or threaten to report activities to the police. Spreading false information or making work more difficult are also acts of retaliation or discrimination.

Does the EEO protect against all discipline?

Not all disciplinary acts are covered by the EEOC. If a worker is disciplined or fired for a non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reason, these acts do not violate the law. Therefore, it is important for workers to understand when they are facing retaliation or discrimination or whether they are simply being subject to permissible workplace actions. This post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Our firm’s webpage on employment law for employees may be a good starting point for those who want more information on this topic.