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Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Retaliation



As an employee, it is your right to engage in certain activities – such as filing a complaint. But if your employer retaliates by taking adverse action against you, what can you do?

In some cases, it may be challenging to determine whether you are being disciplined or are a victim of retaliation in the workplace. So, what’s the difference?

Well, for starters, workplace retaliation is illegal.


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If you engage in a protected activity, you are protected against retaliation by federal law. If your employer retaliates by firing or demoting you, this constitutes unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination in Virginia.

Read on to find out what activities are protected from retaliation and what you can do about it.

Protected Activities

If, for instance, an employee files a complaint against their employer and the employer punishes them for it, their actions are classified as unlawful retaliation.

Unlawful retaliation is usually a violation of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act and Equal Pay Act.

Employee activities protected under federal law include whistleblowing, filing a complaint about harassment or discrimination, helping another employee file a complaint, and reporting the employer for health or safety violations.

It’s important to note that unlawful retaliation still applies even if your initial complaint has been dismissed.

The Types of Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace can take several forms, but job-related actions are the most common. any and all forms of retaliation are detrimental to an employee’s mental health

Job-related actions include harassment, reassignment, termination, being disciplined for minor actions, and being passed over for promotions by the employer. When you leave your job, your employer may also retaliate by interfering with your employment prospects by refusing to supply a reference or giving prospective employers false information. 

Your employer may also retaliate against you by harassing you. Harassment can take the form of refusing you the support or equipment needed to perform your duties or giving you responsibilities below your skill level – especially when your employer behaved differently in the past. 

Two essential factors that determine whether an employer is engaged in workplace retaliation are timing and intention.

If You Are a Victim of Workplace Retaliation

If you feel that your employer is unlawfully retaliating against you, your first action should be to consult with your supervisors and HR department to determine whether your feelings are justified.

If you feel that the adverse actions taken against you by your employer are more than basic discipline, inform your HR department that you are experiencing retaliation and formally ask that your employer desists.


However, if the retaliation continues, you have every right to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An experienced employment lawyer can help you file a claim with the EEOC and navigate the process.

Don’t forget to document every retaliatory action your employer levels at you, and be sure to note how your employer’s behavior changed after you engaged in a protected activity. You should also keep a record of all your performance reviews.

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