I’m Being Retaliated Against at Work But How Can I Prove It?

retaliated against at workI’m being retaliated against at work but how can I prove it? As the definition of “protected conduct” in the workplace broadens, the number of employer retaliation lawsuits have increased exponentially. In turn, companies have found clever ways to get rid of employees who have reported them to authorities for protected class violations at work.

If you feel you are being retaliated against at work for protected conduct then you very well may be.

What is protected conduct?

Protected conduct is described by the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Basically, there are provisions covered in the EEOC statutes that make it unlawful for an employer/entity to take action against an employee who complains (implicitly or explicitly) about discrimination in the workplace. Areas of protected conduct include employees’ rights to: religious preference, gender identification, race, age, disability, military status, freedom of speech and protest, equal pay, harassment and protection for rape victims.

Here are some examples of complaints/actions that an employer may not retaliate against: 

  1. A threat from a 56 year old employee to file a complaint against alleged age discrimination because of demotion
  2. A female employee who complains that her male co-worker is making more money performing the same job
  3. Employees who picket the workplace
  4. Employees who slow production as a form of protesting unfair labor practices
  5. An employee who suddenly comes to work wearing a hijab
  6. Complaints about graffiti in the workplace that are derogatory to women
  7. A concerned employee who complains that her supervisor is making fun of the receptionist in a wheelchair
  8. An employee who refuses to obey an order that they believe is discriminatory
  9. An employee who requests reasonable religious accommodation to take a half day off for Good Friday

There are various tactics that employers can use that may violate retaliation laws, some subtle and some not, that may be intended to coerce you into quitting your job. Be aware that retaliatory tactics can and often include what psychologists call the “outcast effect” that is best described when co-workers socially align with the “in crowd”. You will know this is happening when your friends at work shun you and label you as socially undesirable. Basically, the entire workforce may turn against you in a big way and it can be cruel.

 This Forbes Magazine article clearly describes just how miserable co-workers and supervisors can make an employee feel who reports protected conduct to authorities.

I’m Being Retaliated Against at Work

Social isolation does not stand on its own as a case for retaliation. It is only one cog in the wheel of a divisive harassment campaign that companies may use against you. A typical retaliation campaign might include, along with social isolation, poor performance reviews, petty reprimands, cuts in duties and pay, unequal treatment between complaining and non-complaining employees, hostility, being moved from a bright office to a dull cubicle, loss of responsibilities and increased work load meant to make you fail.

What must an employee go through to prove a workplace retaliation claim?

Employees must provide evidence:

  • that they engaged in protected conduct;
  • that they suffered a tangible, adverse employment action; and that there is a causal connection between their protected conduct and the adverse action.
  • that there is a causal connection between their protected conduct and the adverse action.

Further, employees must prove causation by providing incidents, documents, witnesses and dates, with tangible evidence of:

  1. unfair treatment between employees;
  2. the timing between the adverse actions and the protected conduct (courts expect employers to retaliate quickly);
  3. lack of a formal investigation into the employee’s complaint;
  4. petty or vague reasons for reprimands, demotions, loss of status or duties;
  5. a documented timeline of systematic company harassment after the time of the protected conduct.

If you feel you are being retaliated against at work and think you need assistance in proving causation please contact us at our Beck Law P.C. Santa Rosa Labor and Employment Law office so that we can discuss the circumstances of your situation.


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