You walk into work one day, and you do your job as you have every day during your employment. At some point, however, you said or did something, not related to your job performance, that your employer did not like. Maybe you filed a complaint with the HR department because of some mistreatment you experienced. You go into work the next day, thinking the whole situation has blown over. Unfortunately, it has not. Your employer begins to mistreat you. This makes your job stressful and unbearable. After a couple of weeks, you walk into work to find that you have been terminated. Your life negatively changed in the blink of an eye because you filed a complaint with your HR department. This does not seem right.
This sort of behavior by the employer is known as retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for undergoing some sort of legally protected activity, or if an employer poorly treats an employee because of some individual characteristic. Retaliation takes many different forms, but the most common types of retaliation involve demotions, salary reductions, or terminations.
As an advocate for workers’ rights and having an interest in employment relationships in general, I did a little digging to understand further the circumstances surrounding employer retaliation. I came across an excellent article that explained the woes and hardships associated with employer retaliation. I was astounded.
The article listed some of the various individual characteristics that generate unjust retaliation by an employer. It explained that some employees are treated poorly because of their race, age, national origin, disability, sex, and gender. The article also described some of the more common employee actions that result in retaliation by the employer. The employee actions that commonly result in retaliation include whistleblowing, filing a workers’ compensation claim, taking leave, and failing to perform an illegal act for the employer. Whatever the reason, employers often unjustly retaliate and can negatively change the lives of the innocent employees.
The article also pointed out the tough issue involved with retaliation actions. If an employer retaliates, an employee often must turn to the HR department. Often, retaliation occurs because the employee initially went to the HR department with some legally justified complaint against the employer. When retaliation occurs, the employee is forced to return to the place where it all began. This can make things difficult for mistreated employees.
Retaliation can be terrible, but it is essential to be aware of the signs of mistreatment. Employees can file complaints. They have legally-protected rights. Take note of your employer’s actions if you think they have adversely changed in response to a complaint you have submitted. Make sure your HR department is aware of this, even if HR was the initial source of the problem. Understand that retaliation can be difficult to detect. Keep a sharp eye out for employer misconduct, and don’t be reluctant to speak out only because of retaliation.