Standing up to illegal conduct at work? Know the facts about retaliation

People who witness or experience sexual harassment, discrimination or other illegal treatment at work are often afraid to take a stand against it because they worry they could be fired or face other negative consequences. When someone suffers negative repercussions at work as a result of speaking up about something illegal that has taken place, it is known as retaliation. Often, workplace retaliation is against the law.

However, even though it is illegal, employment retaliation is also very common. The number of retaliation claims filed with the EEOC has more than doubled since 1997, and those claims now make up about 43 percent of all discrimination cases reported to the agency. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what employment retaliation looks like and know what your rights are in case it ever happens to you.

If you object to some type of illegal conduct at work, whether it involves sexual harassment, illegal discrimination or anything else that breaks the law, you may qualify as a whistleblower. That means you may be protected by a wide range of laws designed to encourage workers to stand up for what is right by shielding them from retaliation.

What does retaliation look like?

In its most blatant forms, employment retaliation can be as simple as your boss telling you that you are fired because you complained about some type of illegal conduct, such as discrimination or harassment. Often, however, it is more subtle, and it can even happen without you realizing it. Research from the Ethics Resource Center highlights some of the most common forms of workplace retaliation. Key findings from that research include:

  • About two-thirds of workers who reported retaliation say they were excluded from important meetings and decisions or verbally abused by their supervisors or coworkers.
  • More than half said they nearly lost their jobs, and the same number said they were passed over for a promotion or a raise.
  • Nearly half said they had their pay or hours cut, or that they were relocated or reassigned
  • About one-third said they were demoted.

A significant number of employees reported even more serious forms of retaliation, including harassment at home and physical harm to themselves or their property.

If you have suffered negative consequences as a result of reporting or objecting to illegal conduct at work, you do not have to stand for it. The law is there to protect you. Depending on the individual circumstances of your case, there may be various legal remedies available to you, including lost wages, reinstatement of employment and more. For help with retaliation concerns and other matters of employment law in Missouri, contact Thornberry Brown, LLC.