A recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast dealt with the Prisoner’s Dilemma exercise in game theory, in which, not knowing the other player’s decision, you must choose to cooperate with the other player or to work against them. When the same two players play multiple rounds, they often retaliate against each other for previous rounds where one player chose to work against the other. Retaliation is when someone punishes you for doing something that offended them, in essence escalating a conflict that they believe you started. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in an action that, from a legal standpoint, does not deserve punishment. Unfortunately, though, retaliation is part of the playbook of many employers when their employees stand up against discrimination, ethical violations, or other unsavory activities. The Indianapolis employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you protect yourself from employer retaliation.
Protected Actions and Indiana Employment Law
In the context of employment law, retaliation is when your employer punishes you (engages in actions that are only appropriate in the case of employee misconduct or chronically poor performance) as a response to the employee doing something that is not against the law and that employers do not have the right to make rules against. These are some examples of protected actions:
- Demanding fair pay, including an hourly rate of at least $7.25 (the state minimum wage in Indiana) and overtime pay (the employee’s hourly rate times 1.5) for each hour beyond the 40th that the employee works in a given week
- Voting in federal, state, or local elections in which the employee is eligible to vote
- Requesting an unpaid leave of absence for up to 12 weeks, pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act
- Complaining about discrimination against oneself or another employee based on a protected characteristic such as race, gender, religion, or age
- Participating in an investigation into misconduct or illegal actions by the employer
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Reporting a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability, pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
If your employer takes an adverse action against you because you have engaged in one of the above protected actions, it is employer retaliation. Just because the adverse action happened shortly after the protected action does not always mean that the protected action was the cause of the adverse action. In fact, the employer may try to argue that you are only claiming retaliation in order to shift the blame away from your own mistakes or misconduct. When it is your word against your employer’s, the employment discrimination and employer retaliation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you back up your claims with evidence.
What is an Adverse Action?
An adverse action is anything an employer does to punish employees for poor performance, misconduct, or violations of company policy. If your employer did one of these things because you engaged in a protected action, you have grounds for an employer retaliation claim:
- Revoking privileges such as the use of company-owned vehicles or debit cards linked to business expense accounts
- Demotion to a less prestigious position title or a job with fewer responsibilities
- Reducing your pay, with or without a change in position title
- Requiring you to take a paid or unpaid leave of absence from work
- Denying you a promotion or pay raise when you become eligible for one
- Unfairly negative comments or evaluations on your performance review
- Requiring you to undergo additional performance reviews that other employees are not required to undergo
- Terminating your employment
- Reassigning you to an undesirable work schedule, work location, or duties
You may still have grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer even if you did not get fired. Many times, employers retaliate against employees by making their experiences at work unbearable, trying to pressure the employees to quit their jobs; this way the employee cannot claim that there was wrongful termination of employment. The other types of retaliation are still against the law, though, and you have the right to stand up for yourself when faced with them.
Retaliation Against Employees Who Stand Up Against Workplace Discrimination
In many cases, retaliation is the most unpleasant part of taking a stand against workplace discrimination. The human resources department may seem very pleasant and understanding when discussing your discrimination complaint with you, but then the situation about which you complained might get worse. The supervisor or coworker whose behavior motivated you to file the complaint in the first place might increase their harassment of you, and other coworkers who never bothered you before might join in. This is called creating a hostile work environment, and it is a form of employment discrimination. If this happens, you should contact an employment discrimination lawyer, if you have not already done so, and you should document all the discriminatory actions and harassment that took place before and after you filed the initial complaint.
Filing an Employment Complaint After Retaliation in Indiana
It is never too soon to contact an employment discrimination lawyer if your employer has retaliated against you for engaging in a protected action or if you plan to engage in a protected action and you fear retaliation by your employer. Working with a lawyer from early in the process will ensure that you do not miss any opportunities to gather evidence to support your claims and do not make any mistakes when filing your complaint. Hiring a lawyer you can trust makes it easier to deal with the emotional obstacle course of taking legal action against workplace retaliation and employment discrimination.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employer Retaliation in Indianapolis
HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP represents employees whose employers have retaliated against them after they engaged in legally protected actions, such as requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Indianapolis, Indiana to set up a consultation.