Retaliation in the Workplace

Retaliation is a common problem in the workplace, and it can be difficult to stand up to your boss or co-workers when they retaliate against you. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what retaliation in the workplace is, what forms it can take, and how to deal with it if it happens to you. We’ll also share some steps you can take to protect yourself from retaliation in the future. Keep on reading.

Definition of Retaliation in the Workplace

We define retaliation in the workplace as an adverse action against an employee because the employee has filed a complaint or engaged in a protected activity, e.g., reported discrimination or harassment. Retaliation can include terminating the employee, demoting them, or giving them undesirable work assignments. 

Retaliation can also entail more subtle actions, such as giving an employee a negative performance review or denying them a promotion. Workplace retaliation is illegal under both state and federal law, and it can be grounds for a lawsuit. Let’s look at some workplace retaliation examples and what you can do to fight back.

Examples of Retaliation in the Workplace

Retaliation in the workplace is surprisingly common and can take many different forms. Some examples of retaliation at work include the following:

·   Exclusion: being intentionally excluded from company activities other employees attend

·   Demotion: moving an employee from their current position to a lower-level position in a company

·   Reassignment to a less desirable shift or position

·   Denial of a promotion

·   Salary reduction and losing regular hours

·   Wrongful termination

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that retaliation is the most common claim filed under federal employment discrimination laws. Even though employer retaliation, company retaliation, and manager retaliation against an employee are the most common forms, there have been instances of employee retaliation against another employee, and even HR retaliation or union retaliation. Whatever the case may be, you should know your rights and what steps to take if you experience any form of work retaliation.

How Can You Tell If You’re a Victim of Workplace Retaliation?

There are several signs of retaliation at work that you shouldn’t ignore:

  • One clue is timing. If you complain about discrimination and are then passed over for a promotion that you would have otherwise received, your employer may be retaliating against you.
  • Another sign of retaliation in the workplace is a change in your work duties. Suppose you are suddenly given assignments outside of your job description. In that case, your employer may be trying to make your job more difficult to punish you. 
  • Finally, keep an eye on your paycheck. If you notice a sudden drop in pay or hours, that could be a sign that your employer is trying to punish you for something.

If you believe that you are a victim of retaliation, it’s important to document the changes in your job duties and any other negative actions taken by your employer. This documentation can be useful if you decide to file a complaint with a government agency or file a lawsuit against your employer.

What Are Your Legal Rights When It Comes to Retaliation?

If you believe that you have suffered retaliation at work, it’s important to know your legal rights. The first step is to identify the type of retaliation that has occurred. There are different forms of retaliation at work, including termination, demotion, salary reduction, etc. If you have experienced any of these adverse actions at work, you may file a retaliation claim. 

However, simply experiencing adverse treatment at work is not enough for a retaliation claim. There must be a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. In other words, you must be able to show that the employer took action because you engaged in a protected activity.

Now, what exactly are protected activities? These include the following:

·   Filing a discrimination or harassment complaint

·   Testifying in a co-worker’s discrimination case

·   Participating in an investigation or lawsuit against the employer

·   Refusing to engage in illegal conduct

·   Whistleblowing against your employer

·   Requesting salary information from colleagues or management

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in any of these protected activities listed above. If you believe that you have been the victim of harassment and retaliation in the workplace, you should contact the EEOC. The commission will investigate your claim and determine whether there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit on your behalf. 

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that you may also have state law protections against retaliation. Therefore, if you live in a state with its own anti-discrimination laws, you should also contact your state’s fair employment agency. By understanding your legal rights, you can take action if you believe you have been the victim of retaliation.

How Do You Report Retaliation?

The first step is to report the incident to your supervisor or another appropriate individual within your company. Be sure to document the date, time, and details of the incident and any witnesses who may have seen it occur. You should also keep a record of any subsequent interactions with the individual who retaliated against you. 

Once you have gathered all relevant information, you can file a formal complaint with your company’s HR department. In some cases, employees experience retaliation after going to HR, so going straight to an external organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) might be the best thing to do.

What to Do If Your Employer Doesn’t Take Any Action After You Report Retaliation

If your employer doesn’t take any action to address the retaliation, you may file charges with the EEOC. The EEOC will then investigate the matter and determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a lawsuit. However, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney before taking this step. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law and ensure that your claim is handled correctly. Taking action against workplace retaliation can be difficult, but it’s important to stand up for your rights.

According to the job satisfaction statistics, 50% of the workforce would leave their job because of a bad manager and 79% of US workers would leave their job due to a lack of appreciation by the management. Not only does vindictive management in a company lead to bad relations with employees, but it also entails legal consequences. A retaliation policy in the workplace can help prevent these negative outcomes by making it clear that retaliation will not be tolerated. The policy should outline the types of retaliatory behavior that are prohibited and the consequences of engaging in such behavior.

Tips for Preventing Retaliation in the Workplace

There are a few key things you can do to help prevent retaliation at work:

1. Make sure to document everything. Keep track of who you speak to, what was said, and when it happened. This will help provide evidence if you need to file a complaint.

2. Report any incidents of workplace retaliation immediately. Don’t wait; report the incident as soon as it happens. This will help ensure a paper trail and that the situation can be addressed quickly.

3. Speak with an attorney if you feel you’re being retaliated against. An attorney can advise you on your rights and help protect you if things get complicated.


Retaliation in the workplace can take many different forms but it’s always illegal. If you think you’re being retaliated against, it’s important to know your legal rights and how to report the behavior. Employers are required to take action after a retaliation complaint is filed, but if they don’t, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself. Ignoring the warning signs of retaliation won’t help. Instead, standing up for yourself and knowing your rights will help you and prevent something similar from happening to your fellow colleagues. By taking quick and decisive action, you can help to ensure that retaliation doesn’t occur in your workplace.

FAQ on Retaliation in the Workplace