Whenever an employee reports unfair treatment, illegal activities, or sexual harassment in the workplace to a supervisor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the human resources department, they are legally protected against retaliation from their employer or fellow employees. Unfortunately, some companies choose to ignore the laws regarding this matter though, so it is important to know what qualifies as workplace retaliation, when to seek legal help, and how to prove the retaliation in a court hearing.

What is Workplace Retaliation?

Most companies in the United States operate under the law that says that all people who work for them are at-will employees. That means that they can either quit or be terminated at any time. However, there are other laws in regards to the civil and constitutional rights that Americans have that further clarify employee rights by stating that employers must not purposefully terminate or act in a retaliatory manner against an employee simply because they tried to seek help to protect themselves or others against the illegal or unethical actions of other employees. Some common examples of retaliation in the workplace include being fired, demoted, harassed, or receiving a decrease in pay. Occasionally, companies attempt to be more discrete in their actions though by refusing to give an employee important communications that they need to do their job properly, not telling them about meetings or upcoming projects, or giving them poor performance reviews that result in them receiving undeserved consequences.

When Should a Person Seek Legal Help for Workplace Retaliation?

It is crucial that a person who has been subjected to workplace retaliation seek legal help as soon as possible for the matter because it can worsen over time, which could lead to financial loss and severe emotional and physical stress. There are also time limits set in some places that require the retaliation to be reported within three months or so after the event has taken place. Attorneys who specialize in employment law can offer advice regarding what legal actions that a retaliation victim can take and how they can protect themselves from further abuse from the employees who are taking part in the retaliation. It is important to mention that there are some cases of retaliation that require immediate legal action though, such as threats of violence against an employee or their friends or family members. If this should occur, it may be necessary to report the incident to the police as well. An attorney can help with this process too.

How Can Retaliation Be Proven in Court?

Documentation is absolutely crucial to proving retaliation in court because it can help give a judge or jury the timeline of the behavior. And this helps to show that the actions that were taken were indeed retaliatory and not based on an employee’s failure to perform their job duties. It is also important because it is not illegal for a company to terminate, demote, or decrease the pay of an employee who is failing to perform their job duties. So some companies use this to their advantage by saying that the employee brought the actions onto themselves. The difference often lies in when the actions began. For example, if a person is fired or demoted as soon as they report a supervisor for sexual harassment, the company’s actions were most likely retaliatory. Proper documentation of the actions can help prove this in court if the dates, times, and witnesses to the events are all listed. It is also necessary to get copies of any statements, negative performance reviews, or electronic correspondence that was given by the offending parties or company representatives. It is important to mention that all forms of documentation must be kept in a safe area away from the company’s location though. That is because companies who take part in retaliation may destroy any evidence that they find of it so that they can ensure their success in court.

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