What Is Workplace Retaliation?

Under Ohio and federal employment law, American workers have certain rights that their employers must respect. If violated, employees have to report these instances to be investigated. This is also the case if someone witnesses a coworker having their rights trampled. 

But the reality is, many who are discriminated against or harassed at work won’t take steps to report the issue. Fear of being retaliated against by a boss, supervisor, or other employees is often why. The prospect of losing one’s job, missing out on advancement opportunities, or working in a hostile environment are legitimate reasons to be nervous about filing a complaint against your company. However, you have rights, and retaliation for exercising them is illegal.

What is Workplace Retaliation?

Most instances of workplace retaliation involve supervisors or other employees with the authority to mistreat or punish an employee for participating in a protected activity. Below are just a few examples of such actions: 

  • Requesting a disability accommodation
  • Not complying with orders or policies that qualify are discriminatory
  • Filing reports against an employer for workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
  • Participating in investigations of alleged workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
  • Whistleblower activities
  • Not agreeing to requests for dates and sexual favors to access new opportunities or promotions
  • Intervening to stop a coworker from suffering further harassment and discrimination
  • Forcing your company to pay you the wages you are owed, including overtime and minimum wage, including for other employees
  • Asking for special accommodation due to your religious observances

Both state and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers on the following protected classes:

  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Religious beliefs
  • Gender identity
  • FMLA
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Veteran status

Laws Regarding Workplace Retaliation

Several legal protections prohibit companies from retaliating against employees who take action against workplace discrimination and harassment. These laws include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Equal Pay Act 
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act 

So, if you have experienced retaliatory actions after filing a complaint against your employer, what can you do? First, you need to document instances of this abusive treatment and speak with a skilled Ohio employment discrimination attorney. Don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel because there is a strict statute of limitations to take action. 

Example of Retaliatory Behavior in the Workplace

Managers are prohibited from firing employees that engage in protected activities, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do so. The same can be said of a worker receiving a new schedule after taking action against their company. A supervisor could change it to purposely target the employee’s ability to work and interfere with their personal life. 

Ohio is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employee can be hired and fired without reason. However, the law explains that adverse actions cannot be taken in response to that worker participating in a protected activity. 

Below are some examples of what retaliation may look like:

  • Purposeful damage inflicted on your career (sabotage)
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Unjustified scrutiny of your performance 
  • Receiving harsh penalties for manufactured or minor work rule violations
  • Being demoted to a lower-level job position
  • Having your immigration status threatened or reported
  • Receiving low-performance evaluations that aren’t justified
  • Experiencing schedule changes that purposely interfere with your family life and act as a punishment
  • Being passed over for career and training opportunities, you qualify to receive
  • Wrongful termination

What if your employer didn’t fire you but made the work environment so hostile you had no choice but to quit and escape the abuse? This type of retaliatory conduct is also against the law. 

Suppose you or someone you work with has endured any form of retaliation because of a report they filed regarding discrimination, harassment, or a difficult whistleblower situation. In that case, it may be possible to sue for compensation. Some of the damages you could pursue include:

  • Back pay
  • Lost benefits
  • Pain and suffering

Punitive compensation may also be possible depending on the circumstances of your case, though this is often rare. 

Fight Workplace Retaliation 

When it comes to protecting workers in Ohio, consulting with a knowledgeable employment discrimination lawyer should be your next step. James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm. His practice areas include employment discrimination and workplace retaliation throughout Ohio. Schedule a free initial consultation!