How To Recognize And Stop Retaliation In The Workplace

How To Recognize And Stop Retaliation In The Workplace

When an employer retaliates against an employee for engaging in certain types of protected activities, it is illegal. It may be difficult to understand what constitutes retaliation versus what is normal discipline. The laws against retaliation detail the types of employee activities that are protected from retaliation so that you can have more guidance. A workplace retaliation lawyer at Swartz Swidler may also be able to provide you with guidance about whether or not your employer’s actions were illegal retaliation.

What is retaliation in the workplace?

When an employer punishes an employee because the employee filed a complaint against the employer, it is prohibited retaliation. The actions that are protected include the following:

  • Filing complaints about discrimination or harassment
  • Helping with another worker’s filed complaint
  • Reporting the employer’s violation of safety or other regulations
  • Whistleblowing

Even if your earlier complaint is found to be groundless, your employer may still be liable if he or she retaliates against you because you complained. You must have honestly believed that the situation that occurred was one that was illegal at the time of your complaint.

Types of retaliation in the workplace

Workplace retaliation may take several forms, including job-related actions, being passed over for promotions, job reassignments and harassment. Job-related actions are the most common type of retaliation by employers. They may include being fired without a valid reason even if an employee is working at will if it was done in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. When an employee is passed over for a promotion because he or she engaged in protected activity, it may also be retaliation. Employers may sometimes discipline an employee for minor incidents when the employee has a record of positive evaluations prior to his or her complaint. Similarly, reassigning workers without good reason to less desirable shifts or jobs may also be retaliation.

The important factor in determining whether or not an employer’s conduct was retaliatory in nature is the timing of it as well as the reason. When you leave your job, it is also illegal for your previous employer to try to interfere with your ability to get a new position. This may include giving false negative information about you or refusing to provide you with a reference.


Some employers try to retaliate against employees by engaging in a campaign of harassment. This may include such things as saddling you with only menial duties that are far below your skill level. It may also involve denying your requests for support or supplies that you need for your job or micromanaging you when that has not happened in the past.

Handling retaliation in the workplace

If you believe that your employer is retaliating against you, it is important to find out if that is happening. You can ask your human resources department and your supervisor the reasons behind the actions that have been taken. If the explanation that is given to you doesn’t seem real, tell your supervisor or human resources professional that you believe you are being retaliated against. Ask that the company stop it. If the behavior continues, you might have to file a claim for retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding agencies in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

It is important that you keep thorough documentation of all retaliatory actions. Make certain to note how they differ from how you were treated before you engaged in a protected activity. Save relevant emails and performance reviews from both before and after your activity. You may want to get help from an experienced lawyer at Swartz Swidler. We may help you to meet the deadlines for filing claims with the EEOC and with the state. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our workplace retaliation lawyers.