Employers throughout the country, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are free to decide whom they hire, how much they pay, when they terminate, when they promote and demote, and more. In fact, most at-will employees can be terminated without the employer even having to give cause.
But there employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who exercise their protected rights.. If you are the victim of workplace retaliation, our skilled employment law attorneys at the office of Console Mattiacci Law are here to support you. Here’s what you need to know about proving retaliation in the workplace:
What Is Retaliation?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most commonly alleged type of discrimination in the workplace. Retaliation refers to the punishment of, or negative action taken against, an employee who is exercising one of their protected rights. Acts of retaliation may include, but are not limited to:
- Firing an employee;
- Demoting an employee;
- Denying an employee an earned promotion;
- Reducing an employee’s pay;
- Reducing an employee’s job duties;
- Putting the employee on probation;
- Transferring the employee to a different position or department;
- Threatening the employee;
- Increasing scrutiny of the employee;
- Giving the employee a poor employment evaluation.
Remember, these things are only illegal when they are done in retaliation to an employee exercising a protected right.
What Are My Protected Rights?
Protected rights are those rights which are protected under state and federal laws, and include the right to:
- Complain of illegal discrimination, retaliation or harassment of yourself or another;
- Report unsafe work conditions;
- File a workers’ compensation claim following a workplace injury;
- Resist sexual advances;
- Refuse to follow orders that are discriminatory in nature;
- Request accommodation for disability or religious purposes;
- Act as a witness in a discrimination lawsuit against an employer; or
- Take protected paid or unpaid leave.
How Can I Prove Retaliation?
One of the most difficult things about bringing forth a complaint of workplace retaliation is proving that the retaliation occurred; you may be able to prove that you were demoted, fired, dismissed, etc., but can you prove that the action(s) taken against you was retaliatory in nature? You’ll need to establish three things:
- You engaged in a protected activity. The first thing that you need to prove is relatively easy: that you engaged in a protected activity.
- A workplace-related action was taken against you. The next thing that you’ll need to prove is that some type of workplace-related negative action was taken against you by your employer. This might include one of the retaliatory actions listed above or something else.
- The action taken against you was retaliatory. Again, it is not enough just to prove that you engaged in a protected activity, or that an action was taken against you in the workplace; you must prove a causal connection between the two events.
Some things that can help to prove a causal connection include a lack of any other explanation (i.e., why would your employer terminate you otherwise), the timing of the two events (i.e., you were fired immediately after offering testimony about an employer’s discriminatory behavior), and your employer’s knowledge of your activity (if you can’t prove that your employer knew you engage in a protected activity, you won’t be able to prove that they acted against you as a result of that knowledge).
How Can an Employment Law Attorney Help Me?
Exercising one of your protected rights can be intimidating and stressful in itself, especially if you’ve already been discriminated against or harassed, suffered a workplace injury, etc.; when your employer retaliates against you, you may be downright scared.
But you don’t have to do it alone. Our employment lawyers are well-versed in workplace retaliation laws, and can lend you the support and guidance that you need. We help you by:
- Investigating your case. We’ll collect the evidence that is necessary to prove the three elements discussed above, including any employment records and logs kept by the employer.
- Representing you in interactions with your employer. You don’t need to worry about going up against your employer alone — we will represent you and your interests in all interactions with your employer.
- Explaining the law and your options. We will also help you to understand how to navigate the laws in your state, including how to file a complaint with your state’s division of civil rights or the federal EEOC. We will also guide you through your remedies, represent you in any hearings, negotiate a settlement on your behalf, and if necessary, take your case to trial..
Call Our Law Firm Today
Knowing how to prove retaliation in the workplace can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with the emotional and financial repercussions of retaliation. When you call our law firm, we will handle your case with confidence, offering you comfort and peace of mind. We are passionate about protecting workers’ rights in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we are ready to review your case, free of charge, today. Reach out to our workplace retaliation attorneys by phone or online now to learn more.