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What constitutes workplace retaliation?

As someone who lives and works in America, you are probably aware of certain laws that pertain to the workplace. For example, you may know that you have a right to a harassment and discrimination-free environment. You may not know, however, that you are also protected in your right to “blow the whistle” about these and other wrongdoings without having to fear being retaliated against by your employer.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace retaliation occurs if your employer, supervisor or someone else in your place of business treats you unjustly or otherwise penalizes you for exercising something that is considered a “protected right.”

Possible examples of workplace retaliation

You have a right to a work environment that is free from sexual harassment, and if you are harassed by an employer and then promptly demoted after rebuffing his or her advances, this may be considered workplace retaliation. Another example might be blowing the whistle about, say, your company’s illegal dumping of hazardous materials and then finding yourself with an unfavorable schedule and a pay cut shortly thereafter.

You also cannot be forced into any behaviors or actions that you know are illegal, even if doing so is a direct order from a superior. Should you fail to heed such instructions and then find that your work environment becomes threatening or abusive, this, too, may be considered retaliation.   

Not all examples of workplace retaliation are obvious in nature. You may find that you fail to pass an employee evaluation for no good reason, or you may be passed over for a new position or promotion that was originally intended for you without even knowing it.

While retaliation can take many forms, it must involve you being unfairly punished or penalized because of exercising one of your protected rights. If you believe you have been a victim of workplace retaliation, you may want to get in touch with an attorney. 

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