Retaliation in the Workplace in Pennsylvania
Every employee has the right to a workplace free from discrimination and retaliation. But in reality, many employees face this kind of unfair treatment at work on a daily basis. When an employee exercises one or more of his or her workplace rights and in return faces actions meant to punish him or her for exercising those rights, he or she is facing workplace retaliation. This includes the right to complain of discrimination, to request certain protected medical and maternity leave, and to act as a whistleblower.
If you are the victim of workplace retaliation, there are a number of different laws designed to protect your rights, including federal law (such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and 42 U.S.C. §1981 (Section 1981)), state law (such as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)) and local law (such as the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (PFPO)).
Defining Workplace Retaliation
Retaliation occurs when an employer treats an employee worse or takes action against an employee as a result of that employee engaging in protected activity, such as voicing concerns about discrimination or requesting an accommodation for a disability. Disciplinary measures for alleged wrongdoing, such as writing an employee up, suspending an employee, placing an employee on probation, demoting an employee or terminating an employee, can be acts of retaliation if they are motivated by the employee’s protected activity. Unlawful retaliation can come in all different forms, including workplace harassment.
Legally Protected Activities
Legally, you have many rights in the workplace. These rights include, but are not limited to:
- Filing a discrimination claim;
- Submitting an internal complaint of discrimination, including an informal and/or verbal complaint;
- Questioning whether certain decisions or conduct of the employer are unlawful;
- Supporting a colleague’s discrimination or retaliation claim or internal complaint;
- Requesting medical or maternity leave; and
- Acting as a whistleblower.
What Constitutes Retaliation in the Workplace?
A few examples of workplace retaliation include:
- Firing an employee after she states that there may be discrimination in the workplace;
- Creating an uncomfortable work environment with the goal of making an employee quit after she requests maternity leave;
- Issuing an employee a write up after he requests an accommodation for his disability;
- Transferring an employee to a different department or shift after he raised concerns about minimum wage or overtime pay;
- Issuing a negative performance review to an employee after she provided testimony in favor of a colleague who claimed that the company was discriminating against its employees; and
- Demoting an employee after she files a sexual harassment claim with an agency or a court.
Keep in mind that anybody at any level of an organization can face retaliation at work. It does not matter if you are an entry level worker, if you are in a supervisory role or if you are in a senior position – if you face an unjust dismissal or other inappropriate treatment that you feel was an attempt at punishing you for your legitimate actions in the workplace, you may file a retaliation claim to pursue compensation for your related damages.
What to Do When you Face Employer Retaliation
Contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights and explore all avenues of potential relief.
At the federal level, certain workplace retaliation claims (such as claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA))are handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At the state level (such as claims pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)), they are handled by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). When a Pennsylvania employee files a retaliation claim with the agency, the agency investigates the claim. An investigation can lead to a settlement between the employee and the employer to cover the employee’s losses or it can lead to a retaliation lawsuit against the employer.
Through a retaliation claim, an employee can pursue monetary compensation for all of his or her retaliation-related losses, including:
- Emotional trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering;
- Lost wages and benefits due to being out of work (both past and future);
- Curtailed career advancement opportunities;
- Punitive damages and liquidated damages; and
- Attorneys’ fees and costs.
Work with an Experienced Philadelphia Employment Lawyer
Even one incident of workplace retaliation can be devastating from an emotional and economic standpoint. As an employee, it is always important that you know and exercise your workplace rights. If you feel that you have faced workplace retaliation or another rights violation at work, discuss your case with one of the experienced employment lawyers on our team at Console Mattiacci Law to determine the most productive way to move forward with your case. Contact our office now to schedule your initial legal consultation.