Retaliation is an illegal employment practice that has become increasingly common during the last fifteen years. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charges of retaliation have outpaced all other types of discrimination, such as race and gender discrimination.
What is Retaliation?
Retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee who has engaged in a protected activity. Protected activities can include complaining about discrimination, participating in a union, or filing a claim for workers’ compensation. Likewise, there are many different types of illegal retaliatory actions that an employer may take, including:
- Firing an employee;
- Reducing an employee’s pay;
- Reducing an employee’s benefits;
- Giving an employee unfavorable job assignments; or
- Isolating an employee at work.
Laws That Prohibit Retaliation
Retaliation is illegal under federal law and Colorado state law. The particular law that applies can differ depending on the type of protected action the employee was engaged in. For example:
Filing a charge of discrimination – Retaliation for protected actions related to discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) and Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (Co. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402). Title VII applies to the federal government, Colorado state government, and private employers with 15 or more employees. The Anti-Discrimination Act offers similar protections, but applies to all private employers, regardless of how many employees they have. Some religious organizations and private clubs are exempted from these laws.
Participating in union activities – Retaliation for participating in union-related activities is prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act 29 U.S.C. 151-169). In order for the National Labor Relations Act to apply, an employer must satisfy certain gross sales requirements.
Under these laws, employees have the right to file a retaliation charge with the appropriate authority and seek lost wages or reinstatement. In addition to these laws, Colorado’s common law also prohibits retaliation. The law gives victims of retaliation the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, sometimes called a retaliatory discharge lawsuit or discharge in violation of public policy lawsuit.
Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
A worker who files a wrongful termination lawsuit must be able to successfully prove three elements.
- First, the worker, called the plaintiff, must be able to prove that they were employed by the defendant employer.
- Second, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant employer discharged, or fired, them.
- Third, the plaintiff must be able to prove that they were fired for exercising a job-related right or privilege to which they were entitled, or that they were fired for a reason that is against public policy. Herrera v. San Luis central Railroad Co., 997 P.2d 1238 (Colo. App. 1999).
Wrongful Termination Lawyers
If you are a victim of retaliation and have been laid-off or fired, it is important to contact an experienced wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can listen to your particular situation and advise you on the best course of action, whether that is filing a charge of retaliation or filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. At HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, we have experience helping victims of wrongful termination get back pay, job reinstatement, and other damages.
If you have been wrongfully terminated, contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP online or call us at 303-991-3075 for a private consultation.