Workplace Retaliation – What It Is And How To Handle It

Workplace Retaliation

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough when you have to deal with the stresses of the workplace. The following blog post will explore what constitutes workplace retaliation and how it may impact your career.

What is Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation is any act taken by an employer or supervisor against an employee, applicant, contractor, or other individual who is involved in a grievance process. Workplace retaliation can take many forms including: termination; demotion; suspension without pay; denial of promotion opportunities; reassignment to less desirable duties or location; changes in schedule that interfere with family obligations such as child care arrangements for elderly parents and school schedules for children under 18 years old. Retaliation also includes threats of violence from supervisors, harassment (including offensive jokes), etc.

What is Workplace Retaliation

Laws on Retaliation

As we mentioned before, people get retaliated against all the time, and the good news is that there are laws to protect you against retaliation. But, unfortunately, the law on retaliation is not just one law; it’s a bunch of different laws. So while most of these laws are pretty much the same in most states, we’re going to focus primarily on California’s retaliation laws. So let’s take a look at a few of these laws:

  • California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act – This law is about when an employee complains about unlawful discrimination or harassment then retaliated against because of this complaint. 
  • California Labor Code Section 1102.5 – This law is about when an employee refuses to do something unlawful and then is retaliated against for that. 
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – This act is about when employees complain about their wages. For example, not being paid on time, filing a wage complaint with the labor board, and being punished for that complaint. 
  • California Health and Safety Code – This law is about when employees in a hospital environment complain about unsafe patient care or conditions and are punished for complaining. 
  • California Labor Code Section 6310 – This law is all about unsafe working conditions. If employees complain about workplace safety conditions and employers retaliate against them, they can bring a retaliation claim under that law. 


The Different Types of Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation may seem very obvious, but it can look quite different depending on the situation. Additionally, there is a reason why we have retaliation laws, and these experiences can be very emotional for any employee. So let’s take a look at some types of workplace retaliation. 

  • Wrongfully suspending the employee 
  • Threatening an employee
  • Writing a negative evaluation about someone
  • Demoting an employee
  • Denying a promotion to a qualified employee

How to Prevent and Deal with Workplace Retaliation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reported that retaliation is the most common issue alleged by federal employees and is also the most common form of discrimination in federal sector cases. Additionally, the number of discrimination findings based on an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) retaliation claims have outpaced other bases of discrimination. To curb this issue, here are a few tips that can prevent workplace retaliation:

  • Make it clear that in your workplace, discriminatory and retaliatory behaviors will have appropriate consequences. 
  • Incorporate the necessary information for comprehensive organizational training about retaliation
  • Managers can avoid publicly discussing the allegation out of the EEO process.
  • Do not share information about the EEO activity with any other manager or subordinates.
  • Do not isolate the complainant.
  • Avoid reactive behavior such as denying the employee information, equipment, or benefits provided to other employees with similar duties. 
  • Do not threaten the employee, witnesses, or any other person involved in processing a complaint. 

How to handle workplace retaliation

Resources for Dealing with Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation is indeed a very serious problem, and there are some measures that individuals can take to deal with workplace retaliation. Firstly, adopt a pro retaliation policy statement in the workplace and ensure that everyone is aware of this policy. Secondly, as an employer, if or when you encounter allegations of retaliation, respond to them quickly, bring in the supervisors or managers and the employee involved in the retaliation claim, and respond to it immediately and fairly. 

Fear can also be a serious issue, so as an employer, you should not allow the fear of retaliation claims to come in your way to prevent you from managing or supervising employees. Rule of thumb, treat all of your employees fairly and squarely and just do your job. Finally, documentation is essential. Documenting everything will help. Suppose you have a problem employee or an employee with a problem with a supervisor or manager. In that case, you can record all the occurrences or interactions between you and that individual. So you will have written proof at the end of or at the beginning of an investigation. 

Tips for Avoiding Being Retaliated Against at Work

Some employees might face an unfair experience, like realizing they didn’t get the promotion they thought was theirs or not getting paid, and most times, that employee will retaliate. There are a few ways you can avoid retaliation in the workplace. Let’s take a look at how you can do so.

  • Treat the person reporting the discrimination with respect. Unfortunately, most people are hesitant and fearful of reporting harassment or retaliation. So an employee who sees the employer taking the problem seriously is less likely to escalate the issue to court or any government agency. 
  • Avoid being angry at the person and don’t retaliate in any manner, not even unintentionally. For example, do not transfer someone to another shift during an investigation.
  • Follow established rules. Avoid being accused of treating someone differently than others as a result of their complaint.
  • Confidentiality is key. Any leaked information may cause damage to the investigation. 

avoid being retaliated against at work

Ways to Report a Case of Workplace Harassment or Discrimination

Harassment or discrimination can appear in many forms at the workplace, and everyone should take it seriously. Firstly, anyone who is going through harassment at work would want this to stop. So, you can speak or write to the person explaining to them how their actions are affecting you. If they don’t stop the harassment, you can report the individual and provide sufficient information to help with the inquiry or investigation. 

Secondly, gather all information and write down as many details as you can about the event. Be sure to include the date, time, place, any language that stood out, and also any offensive language used. Furthermore, include who was involved or write down the names of other people who’ve had similar experiences. You may also do a video recording of the incident, and if the behavior is ongoing, you can keep a record of the incidents. 

When you are ready to report the harassment or discrimination, you can go to your direct manager. If the manager is the one you’re having the issue with, you can go to the HR manager or even a union representative. Furthermore, many organizations also have confidential hotlines you can also use. Moreover, if you would rather speak to someone outside of work, there are other bodies you can contact through email, confidential phone lines, or online chats. 

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