Federal and state laws prohibit employers from punishing workers for certain actions. Workers should be able to speak up about misconduct in the workplace, illegal company behavior and safety concerns without putting their jobs at risk. Of course, employer retaliation involves far more than just firing people. There are other ways for employers to inappropriately punish those who engage in protected workplace activities, such as requesting medical accommodations or unpaid leave after the birth of a child.
Employees need to be able to recognize signs of retaliation to assert themselves in the workplace. The following are some of the more common forms of retaliation other than firing an employee.
A punitive transfer
A company’s response to a report of sexual harassment or other misconduct could punish the person who reported the issue. For example, if someone complains that a supervisor sexually harassed them, the business might transfer the worker who filed the report to a different department, facility or shift. Doing so could constitute retaliation, especially if the position, location or shift is less desirable than the original arrangements for the employee.
Diminishing performance reviews
A company’s performance reviews should reflect how well someone does their job. However, some companies use poor performance reviews as a way to justify retaliatory conduct, including terminations. Businesses may begin giving negative performance reviews despite no major change in a worker’s performance after they engage in certain protected workplace activities. On the other hand, the company might start writing a worker up for minor infractions of rules that management does not enforce against other workers or has not historically enforced against that employee.
Reduced workplace opportunities
Many workers have income contingent on the opportunities a company provides. They need sales leads or shifts during busy times when gratuities are higher. If a company starts refusing to assign workers to the best projects, provide them with sales leads or schedule them for more lucrative shifts, those small decisions can add up to major changes in someone’s income and satisfaction with their employment.
Workers who suspect that a company has retaliated against them unlawfully may need to gather documentation supporting their suspicions. They could then potentially take legal action against their employer for wrongfully retaliating over protected workplace activities. Being able to recognize employer retaliation may help people protect their careers when employers violate their rights.