Retaliation for Complaining About Discrimination

You have the right to a hostility-free working environment, and that includes the right to speak out against any discrimination you encounter without fear of discrimination from your employer. This is guaranteed by RCW 49.60.210.

Retaliation is any act meant to sabotage your career or your effort to draw attention to the discrimination you experienced in your workplace. Some examples of retaliation that could occur following a formal discrimination complaint or lawsuit are as follows:

  • Termination;
  • Harassment;
  • Forced resignation;
  • Refusal to promote;
  • Negative performance reviews unrelated to job performance;
  • Increased surveillance;
  • Threats, either professional or personal;
  • Attacks on your character; and
  • Negative references to future employers unrelated to your job performance.

Much like acts of discrimination themselves, any action must be deemed to be mentally, physically, or emotionally harmful to its victim for it to be considered retaliation. Isolated incidents and strained friendships in the workplace are not grounds for a retaliation lawsuit. The action taken by an employer following an accusation of discriminatory behavior must negatively impact the victim’s ability to perform his or her job for his or her retaliation complaint to be valid.

Various forms of protest are considered to be protected activities enforced by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee or group of employees for engaging in any of these activities.

What Are Protected Activities?

Protected activities are non-violent forms of protest against an employer denouncing the discrimination that its employees have endured. Any actions that interfere with the company’s ability to conduct its business are not considered to be protected activities. This includes any threats, professional or personal, against one’s supervisor or co-workers during the discrimination investigation.

The following are legal, protected activities:

  • Threatening to file a discrimination lawsuit;
  • Picketing outside the workplace;
  • Refusing to obey an order that can reasonably be considered discriminatory;
  • Discussing the discrimination that has occurred with one’s colleagues;
  • Filing a charge of discrimination against one’s employer;
  • Serving as a witness to a discrimination investigation or litigation; and
  • Cooperating with Human Resources during the course of an internal investigation of the alleged discrimination.

An individual must be considered to be a covered individual for his or her actions to be protected activities. A covered individual is any individual who has been targeted or is acting in support of a colleague who has been targeted due to their race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability, national origin, age, or gender identity. The terms covered individuals and protected activities are used strictly in conjunction with discrimination cases, and not regarding employees who disagree with business or ethical decisions made by their employers.

Retaliation Attorneys Can Help

If your employer has retaliated against you in any way after you, either as an individual or part of a group of employees, complained about discrimination you faced at work, call HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at 206-838-2504 to discuss your rights with one of our team’s experienced employment lawyers. We’re here to protect your right to speak out against discrimination in the workplace.