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Recognizing workplace retaliation

When you show up to work each day, you have certain protected rights, and you may exercise these rights without having to fear that your employer or colleagues will treat you unjustly because you choose to do so. Protected rights take on many forms, but if your employer or coworkers treat you differently because you exercise any of them, they may be engaging in workplace retaliation.

Essentially, retaliation refers to any actions your employer, supervisors or colleagues make against you as a result of your exercising a protected right. Workplace retaliation is unlawful, and if you are a victim of it, you may be able to seek recourse.

Understanding protected rights and activities

You may be a victim of workplace retaliation if you become subject to unfair treatment after refusing to follow orders to do something unlawful or discriminatory in nature. You may also become a victim of retaliation after resisting the sexual advances of someone in your place of business, or after requesting that your employer make certain accommodations related to a disability or religious preference. You may also find yourself a victim of workplace retaliation if you “blow the whistle” about wrongdoing going on in your place of business.

Examples of retaliation

In some situations, workplace retaliation can be overt. For example, a termination or demotion after engaging in a protected activity may constitute workplace retaliation, as can having your pay docked or your schedule modified to become increasingly unfavorable.

Other examples of workplace retaliation may prove subtler. For example, say your employer currently partners with your spouse’s company on certain projects. Your employer may cease working with your spouse as a way of retaliating against you, and you may also find that you become the subject of unsavory or inaccurate rumors in your office or on your job site.

While your employer can discipline or terminate you for a broad number of reasons, when those reasons become retaliatory or discriminatory in nature, he or she starts running afoul of the law.

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