Virginia, especially the Arlington area, is one of the best places in the United States to work. Job opportunities have remained plentiful despite the ups and downs that the national economy has experienced over the years. Even better, state laws in Virginia provide protections to workers beyond what federal laws provide. For example, as of 2021, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees, but in Virginia it is $9.50 per hour, and it is set to increase every year for the next several years. Likewise, Virginia law specifically requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are pregnant or who have recently given birth and even requires employers to make the first move in providing these accommodations by notifying an employee who has disclosed her pregnancy in the past 10 days that these accommodations are available. Standing up for your rights in the face of workplace retaliation is never a simple matter, but if you experience workplace retaliation, the first thing you should do is be thankful that you are in Virginia instead of anywhere else. The next thing you should do is contact the Arlington employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Adverse Actions and Retaliation
When you make someone mad, get on their bad side, or do something that makes them look bad, and then, in response, they do something to intimidate you or damage your reputation, that is retaliation. It sounds like the kind of thing that should only happen in fictional stories with a target audience of fifth graders, but it happens in real life, even in the workplace, where one would hope that everyone would behave in a professional manner. Adverse actions are things that employers do in response to an employee not doing their job well, breaking the rules specified in the employee handbook, or engaging in misconduct. When an employer takes an adverse action against an employee, not because the employee violated a company policy or did not do their job well, it is workplace retaliation.
These are some adverse actions that employees may experience from their employers:
- Negative performance reviews, sometimes followed by disciplinary actions such as reduced privileges or increased monitoring
- Denial of promotions and raises
- Changing the employee’s work duties, hours, or location to something less desirable
- Termination of employment
- Providing negative references when the employee searches for a new job
Even though retaliation is childish and unproductive, it is common. In fact, more than half of the workplace discrimination complaints that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives each year are about retaliation. If you have experienced retaliation, you should contact the Arlington employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP sooner rather than later.
Protected Actions for Workers in Virginia
The difference between retaliation and just plain being mean to employees is that, with retaliation, the employer starts being mean (or, more often, starts being even meaner) after an employee exercises a legal right that the employer does not want them to exercise. Remember that, no matter what your employer says or does, the law guarantees your right to do these things; that is why they are called protected actions.
The following protected actions are available to workers in Virginia, whether because of federal laws or state laws:
- Demanding fair pay, including overtime pay for hours beyond the 40th that you have worked in any given week
- A workplace that is free of discrimination based on age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or status as a parent
- Reasonable accommodations related to a disability
- Reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or lactation
- Filing complaints about discrimination or about employers’ refusal to provide reasonable accommodations
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim if you get injured at work or receive a diagnosis of an occupational disease
- Disputing a denial of workers’ compensation benefits or of reasonable accommodations
- Taking an unpaid leave of absence because of your illness or your caregiving responsibilities for a newborn or newly adopted child or for a family member with a serious health condition, pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Reporting misconduct or violations by your employer to any relevant regulatory body (for example, reporting a safety hazard in the workplace to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or, if applicable, to law enforcement
- Refusing to follow your employer’s instructions if following them would mean breaking the law or violating a standard set by a regulatory body that governs the industry in which you work
- Participating in an investigation into illegal actions at your workplace triggered by a complaint that someone else filed against your employer
- Discussing your rate of pay with other people inside or outside of your workplace
Taking a Stand Against Retaliation in the Workplace
Even though your employer might try to scare you or shame you out of doing it, speaking out against injustice and misconduct in your workplace is the right thing to do. If you file a lawsuit about retaliation in your workplace, you will need to document the fact that you engaged in a legally protected action and that your employer took an adverse action against you a short time later. You will also need to prove that your employer took the adverse action because of your protected action and not merely after it.
It is important to document all the unfair or threatening things your employer says or does before and after you engage in the protected action. You should notify the EEOC or another relevant entity soon after the retaliation takes place, but you should keep documenting the developments in your workplace. The EEOC will start a preliminary investigation as soon as you file a notice with them, but you cannot file a lawsuit in court until the original EEOC investigation is finished.
Contact a Virginia Employment Lawyer About Employer Retaliation
An employment lawyer can help you stand up for what is right in the face of workplace retaliation. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Arlington, Virginia to set up a consultation.