Written by Reginald Chan on July 24, 2021

An Employee's Guide: What Makes A Strong Retaliation Case?

There are a number of situations that occur at work that make the workspace toxic. There could be instances of discrimination, and harassment that make the environment unbearable. When you finally make an HR complaint to stop the disrespect, that’s when employers can decide to take revenge. This may come in the form of downgrading your position, ignoring you completely even when it comes to professional correspondence, or disciplining you severely although unwarranted. You may be passed up for job promotions or important job training. This can even progress to outright termination. 

Make An Official Complaint

You first should make an official complaint to your supervisor or human resource department that you believe your boss is making retaliatory moves against you. How to be sure? One way is to take note of the timeline this behavior from your employer began taking place. Right after your complaint? Bingo. With sufficient examples of retaliation, an investigation should be opened. Your boss would be questioned and he or she may well deny the claims. But if you’re sure of your accusations and nothing substantial is being done by the organization you work for, then contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Connect The Dots

You need to find concrete examples that tie your complaint directly to the ensuing behavior. For instance, your employer may have e-mailed you an opportunity to participate in a special type of training, which you happily accepted. Fast forward to the start of harassment or unwanted sexual advancements. You refuse those advances and explain to your boss that you are uncomfortable and this is inappropriate. He persists. You file a complaint. 

All of a sudden you receive a correspondence stating that you are no longer invited to participate in the training, and your spot has been given to someone else. No further explanation. Here you can see a clear line that connects one course of action to another. Such evidence cannot be refuted. This is exactly the type of evidence you need to make a strong case. 

Get In Touch With An Employment Lawyer

This will be a tough fight should your employer not take responsibility for his or her actions as is often the case. You need the best, most experienced lawyers fighting back on your side. Cases against major businesses like Walmart, Fed-Ex, and Sherwin Williams have been tried and won. Having experience in representing both employees and employers the West Coast Employment Lawyers are well versed in how both sides of the cases can proceed. This allows them to better prepare all angles of the case. They promise justice, support, and compensation. 

You might be concerned that employing a firm as top-rated is bound to cost more than you can afford. The good news is that you pay not a dime out of pocket unless your case is won.

Retaliation Is Not Always Cut and Dry or Black and White

What you take to harassment from a coworker or an employer may fall within the category of subjectivity and not outright wrongdoing. Take for example a supervisor who asks to speak to you and leads you into his office with the palm of his hand on the flat of your back. He removes it shortly and makes no attempts to flirt. The office door remains open through the discussion. You leave that situation feeling uncomfortable and decide to make a complaint to HR. Your supervisor confesses he saw nothing inappropriate about the interaction. While no one can tell you your feelings are wrong, can he be justly accused of sexual harassment or poor conduct when no similar or worse action happened prior or subsequently? 

Knowing that you felt uncomfortable, he may approach you to suggest that you work with another supervisor from now on. You may have your gripes with this other supervisor or receive fewer opportunities for advancement under their leadership, and feel you are being punished for speaking out your truth. In such a situation, no one wins. It might appear to be an instance of retaliation but in fact, could have simply been the best course of action. 

Be Very Clear On What Protected Activity Covers

Be aware that not every HR complaint is deemed protected despite your belief that it is. Some protected complaints include racial discrimination, sexual harassment, violations of safety, denying medical leave due to a disability, and labor code violations. Micromanaging and being constantly asked to complete tasks that fall outside of your employment contract do not make the cut. So if your boss decided to let you go after you make a complaint that you’re being overworked with tasks that do not apply to your position, there is no case of retaliation. 

Sure, if you honestly believe that a case of harassment took place, but is proven by legal counsel not to be, you will not be penalized. But if it is found that a claim was maliciously brought against an employee or employer, you may well find yourself under the spotlight of the law. 

How To Avoid Such Situations

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that all business places proudly display an anti-retaliation policy. This can be posted in a location where all employers can easily read, can be sent out in emails, or included in the employee handbook. In addition, training can be held to remind all staff of the seriousness of the policy and consequences waiting for those who act out against it. As an employer, seek to create an atmosphere in the workplace of comfort, where persons can feel free to report any cases of poor work practices. But also a space of respect where unwanted and unlawful advancements and actions don’t or rarely take place. 

Make examples out of those who step out of bounds. Let nothing slip through the cracks. A regulatory body with no links to the employer ideally should oversee all complaints so that not even the boss can escape.

Article written by Reginald Chan
A meticulous entrepreneur by nature and a serial entrepreneur. Founded a few awesome startups including Marketing Lancers, WP Maven and TheMarketingHuddle.com. Reginald is a sought-after success coach, digital marketing consultant and TEDx speaker from Asia. Currently, he teaches others how to make money online for free.

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