In the cases of whistleblowers, or employees who have been returned to the workplace after winning a wrongful termination suit, any action taken by an employer that is “materially detrimental” to an employee is considered retaliatory under the law.
The following are examples of materially detrimental actions:
- Being moved to a less desired position
- Being passed over for a promotion
- Not being hired/promoted are all examples of adverse employment actions.
In addition, significantly unfavorable actions are measures that an employer might use to discourage an employee from engaging in a protected activity are also prohibited. Some of these unfavorable actions might include:
- Negating compensation for work. Click here for more on employee compensation.
- Any abuse or threats
- Damaging, erroneous assessments of, or reports about, family members’ treatment
So What May You Do Without Fear Of Reprisal?
According to the statute, workers are shielded from retaliation for engaging in certain “protected activities.” The following statutes establish these guaranteed rights, and the EEOC is responsible for enforcing most of them. Relevant laws are:
- Specifically, the (ADA),
- The Age Discrimination in the Workplace Act (ADEA)
- The Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964
- Section 501 of said Rehabilitation Act
- There are also laws protecting employees’ right to fair compensation and privacy of medical information and the safeguarding of employee privileges
- The US Dept of Labor established OSHA to shield workers who blow the whistle by filing complaints or exercising their rights from any kind of reprisal. Go to Whistleblowers.gov for additional information.
There are strict deadlines for reporting retaliation that must be met before a claim can be filed with OSHA.
Three Broad Types Of Lawful Pursuits
These broad categories are summarized in this article and include the vast majority of legally sanctioned pursuits:
If an employee has a good faith and reasonable suspicion that their employer is engaging in unlawful conduct, he or she has a duty to disclose this suspicion, either to the company’s internal compliance department or to the appropriate authorities. An employer cannot take any action against an employee that would have a “materially detrimental effect” because of this protected behavior. Real-world scenarios where an employee could disclose criminal activity include:
- Disclose sexual harassment incidents
- Having experienced prejudice of some kind
- Confronting dangerous workplace circumstances and reporting them
- False claims that the employer violated the law by not paying overtime or providing mandatory breaks
- What is known as “whistleblowing” is a distinct field, however, any of these circumstances may be covered under the broad term of whistleblowing.
Possessing And Using One’s Employee Rights
Many different agencies, both federal and state, have tackled the issue of protecting workers’ rights. Limits on drug testing, the right to a minimum salary, paid and unpaid parental leave, the ability to return to civilian employment after military duty, the right to a safe and healthy workplace environment, etc. all fall within this vast category of employment law. The threat of retaliatory wrongful termination (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful) exists whenever an employee seeks to exercise a legal privilege that is not to the liking of the employer.
Here are some frequent instances in which an employer may retaliate against a worker who is only asserting his or her rights:
- Making a request for reasonable accommodations due to a disability or religious beliefs
- Asking for a cut of tips received
- Using paid time off for things like medical leave or civic duties like voting or jury duty
- Taking part in a government inquiry – Employees have the right to take part in any legal proceedings, including investigations and hearings, that involve their employer.
- This includes situations when an employee is asked to testify against their employer in court or when they voluntarily offer information to government authorities about the company’s procedures.
There is an almost infinite list of potential motives for retaliation against a worker. Retaliation cases have the largest volume and proportion of all EEOC claims. Retaliation allegations have been on the rise over the years, now making up about 45 percent of all claims filed with the commission.
These three conditions must be met before an employee may file a claim with the EEOC against their employer:
- There had been a protected event.
- Employer reprimand or discipline
- All of the aforementioned are linked together because of a causal relationship, which proves retaliation.
It is reasonably difficult to prove the third criterion, the connection between the employee’s protected action and their subsequent firing. There can always be a “reason” for employee termination, especially in a right-to-work state. This means any and all evidence to the claim must be handled in a timely and efficient manner by an employment attorney to provide the appropriate documentation to file a case.
The link might be established based on either direct or circumstantial evidence. Finding remarks in writing or verbally that show the case is an example of direct evidence, whereas circumstances that suggest retribution were taken into account indirectly are examples of circumstantial evidence.
The burden of proof is with the employee; it is not on the employer to refute the allegation. For retaliation to be presumed to have taken place, there must be evidence that supports that likelihood.
Protections Against Retaliation
If the court finds that retaliation occurred, the following compensation is possible:
- Pay in advance or readmission to work pending employment
- Discretionary funds
- The costs you spent before, during, and after your employment ended unfairly
- Legal costs and time in court
- Compensation for mental anguish
- Damage awards against private companies as punishment
In many instances of retaliation, the parties are able to come to an agreement out of court and avoid going to trial. The amount of a retaliation settlement is determined by the nature of the dispute and the likelihood of the result. Companies often choose to settle employment disputes rather than risk the high costs of litigation if an employee has a compelling case.
However, it is always important to speak with a professional employment attorney as quickly as possible in order to ascertain the validity of your case.
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