Some employers believe that they hold all the cards; they control hiring, firing, wages, and workplace environment and their employees can either accept their decisions or leave. This, of course, is not true. Employers are bound by state and federal employment laws that protect employees and give employees the right to speak out against unfair treatment. When an employer fires an employee in an effort to silence allegations of the employer’s own wrongdoing, he or she has violated the law. Retaliation terminations are strictly prohibited, whether they are performed to stop an employee from participating in a whistleblower lawsuit or because the employer has sought retribution for a discrimination lawsuit filed against the company.
The Many Forms of Retaliation
Retaliation is carried out in a variety of ways by employers and does not always start and stop with firing the employee. Common types of retaliation include harassment, increased surveillance of the employee, reduced wages, demotions, refusing to promote the employee or giving the employee poor performance reviews, and more. Taking any one of these actions is unlawful, particularly terminating the employee. Other types of retaliation, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), include the following:
- Transferring an employee to a less desirable position;
- Physically or verbally attacking the employee;
- Making or threatening to make reports to authorities, including calling the police or contacting immigration enforcement;
- Making the employee’s job more difficult;
- Spreading false rumors about the employee;
- Treating the employee’s family member poorly; and
- Increasing scrutiny of the employee.
Protected Activities That Result in Unlawful Retaliation Firings
Some of the most common issues that hurt a business and its employees are lack of trust between the employees and the employer, bad managing, and not giving employees flexibility, according to Entrepreneur. Retaliation goes a step beyond this and occurs when the employer specifically targets an employee because of a protected activity that the employee carried out. Protected activities include the following:
- Participating in labor union activity;
- Participating in a whistleblower lawsuit;
- Filing a discrimination claim;
- Threatening to file a discrimination lawsuit;
- Filling a withheld wages or overtime complaint;
- Filing for workers’ compensation;
- Discussing wages in order to discover potential wage discrimination;
- Picketing, even right outside the company;
- Talking about a wrongful termination with former colleagues;
- Standing up for a coworker who was wrongfully terminated.
Activities that are not protected, and can lead to a lawful termination and will only hurt a potential discrimination lawsuit, include the following:
- Making threats to ruin the profession of a former coworker or manager;
- Making threats of physical violence;
- Spreading false and malicious rumors about a company that are not fact-based; and
- Interfering or attempting to interfere with a company’s ability to perform its day-to-day operations.
Call the Wrongful Retaliation Attorneys of HKM Employment
If you have been wrongfully terminated because of your participation in a whistleblower lawsuit, workers’ compensation claim, or discrimination lawsuit, you need to speak with an attorney immediately. Do not hesitate to contact the law offices of HKM Employment Attorneys. We have more than 40 years of experience serving clients that have experienced all types of wrongful retaliation firings.