What Are Some Examples of Employment Retaliation Cases?

What Are Some Examples of Employment Retaliation Cases?

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What Are Some Examples of Employment Retaliation Cases?

When you report an employer for illegal actions such as discrimination or harassment or file a workers' compensation claim, the employer is not allowed to retaliate in any way. That's because it's against the law. The same federal laws that protect an individual from discrimination or harassment in the workplace protect employees from retaliation when abuse is reported. Whether the employer is open about their retaliation or is using discrete forms of punishment, they open themselves up to a lawsuit.

Employment retaliation cases are often easier to prove than the original claims that instigated the abuse. That's because a discrimination claim, for example, would require a plaintiff to demonstrate that the employer's actions substantially affect the terms and conditions of employment. Conversely, a retaliation claim only has to prove the employer's actions might dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. 

Let's take a further look into employment retaliation cases and the topics surrounding retaliation at the workplace. 

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  • What is workplace retaliation?

    The word retaliation is defined as "returning like for like, or particularly, evil for evil." Some people have the notion that workplace retaliation is something like a mean boss publicly scolding an employee for pointing out a mistake the boss made. However, when we look at workplace retaliation from a legal perspective, the employer must have done something in retaliation to an employee exercising their legal right to pursue a protected workplace activity. Protected activities are something an employee should be able to pursue without fear of revenge. Here are some examples of protected workplace activities:

    • Reporting discriminatory behavior of a coworker or supervisor
    • Reporting harassing conduct of a coworker or supervisor
    • Making complaints about racists or sexists company policies
    • Reporting sexual harassment
    • Whistleblowing to a government agency
    • Forming a union or talking about unionization
    • Demanding unpaid overtime
    • Participating in internal or government investigations
    • Refusing to obey an order that a reasonable person would consider discriminatory or unsafe
    • Filing a complaint about a safety or health violation

    The above is not an exhaustive list by any means. Still, it is just an example of the kinds of actions an employee can engage in without fear of reprisal from an employer. If the employee is involved in any type of protected workplace activity and then experiences retaliation, the employer is engaging in illegal retaliatory behavior.

  • What are some examples of retaliatory behavior to look out for in the workplace?

    There are many ways an employer can retaliate against an employee for engaging in protected workplace activities ranging from the obvious to more discreet actions such as:

    • Termination of employment
    • Demotions
    • Denial of promotions
    • Harassment
    • Being assigned to less desirable duties
    • Verbal or physical threats
    • Reduction in hours
    • Reduction in pay 
    • Reduction in benefits
    • Increased scrutiny
    • Changing work schedules to conflict with family responsibilities
    • Threats of reporting to authorities such as immigration authorities or law enforcement
    • Unfair performance evaluations

    When it comes to proving workplace retaliation, it all comes down to the motivation behind your employer's actions. Suppose you've experienced any of the above after exercising your rights as an employee. In that case, your employer could be held liable for employment retaliation.

  • How do you show evidence of employment retaliation? 

    When you approach a lawyer about an employment retaliation case, you will need to demonstrate to some degree that it actually took place. This evidence can come in many forms. Here are a few examples:

    • Witnesses
    • Emails
    • Call logs
    • Text messages
    • Letters
    • Voicemail messages
    • Personal notes
    • Business memos
    • Audio or video recordings (depending on state laws)

    When building a case for employment retaliation, the single most important thing you can do is document as much as possible. This could even be achieved by keeping a personal journal. Jot down conversations including dates, times, names of individuals, and all the details that transpired. If you suspect some retaliatory action is about to take place, try to have a trusted coworker present or within earshot. Eyewitness testimony is powerful when proving a claim. However, other kinds of evidence such as emails and voicemails are irrefutable confirmation as well if the employer is foolish enough to lay it out in the open.

  • Examples of employment retaliation cases

    Employer Solutions pays $95,000 settlement

    A Minnesota payroll service company paid $95,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after firing an employee returning from approved medical leave. The woman had knee surgery and notified the company she would be returning but needed to use crutches. The company fired her because they asserted she needed to be 100% healed and her need for "ambulatory aide" was too much.
    This stance violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which makes it unlawful to terminate or discriminate against those with disabilities or perceived disabilities. Furthermore, the ADA protects employees from retaliation for requesting an accommodation or opposing discrimination.

    TrueBlue and PeopleReady to pay $125,000 settlement

    TrueBlue and PeopleReady are labor sourcing companies that have a presence across the U.S. The EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging the PeopleReady subsidiary company TrueBlue fired an employee because of a psychiatric disability. She was not allowed to return to work after a medical clearance following hospitalization for her disability. She was subsequently fired because she would require future treatment in outpatient medical settings.

    The employer's actions violated the ADA, which requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and prohibits taking retaliatory measures against individuals who need special accommodations for their disability.

    Hyde Bellagio to pay $1 million settlement

    Hyde Bellagio, a former Las Vegas night club will pay out $1 million to settle an EEOC charge that the club subjected women applicants and employees to sexual harassment resulting in a hostile workplace. The company is further charged with unlawful retaliation towards workers that complained of the harassment. In addition to the financial settlement, the company has agreed to establish a class fund to award compensation to victims of their illegal practices. 

    AEON Global Health to pay $56,000 settlement

    Another EEOC charge will see AEON Global Health pay out $56,000 in a lawsuit alleging a female supervisor subjected an African American female subordinate to daily race and sex-based verbal harassment. When she complained to upper-level executives, she was subjected to more of the same abuse and then fired. The company will pay the monetary damages to the victim and has agreed to invest in internal monitoring and training concerning discrimination.

    Route 22 Sports Bar and Crazy Mexican Restaurant & Grill to pay $217,500 settlement

    The husband of one of the owners of the two bars regularly subjected female staff to unwanted touching, solicitation of sexual acts, and verbal harassment. Other male staff partook in the same kind of unwanted sexual harassment. When a female bartender complained, she was then fired. The EEOC's lawsuit says this kind of conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As part of the settlement, the owner's male spouse is prohibited from holding any supervisory position and having any kind of direct contact with employees of both businesses. 

    Chicago Meat Authority to pay $1.1 million settlement

    According to the EEOC, the Chicago Meat Authority practices discriminatory hiring practices affecting African American applicants. Black workers were subjected to racial harassment. When one Black employee complained about the illegal practices, he was fired in retaliation. As part of the settlement, the company is mandated to hire rejected applicants if they still wish to have a job at the meat processing business and implement anti-harassment training and policies. 

    Chipolte Mexican Grill to pay $70,000 in settlement

    According to a female Chipolte supervisor in Tampa, Florida, she was sexually harassed by a male crew member, which escalated to inappropriate touching and obscene gestures. After complaining to immediate supervisors, she said she was going to take it to corporate headquarters. Three days later, she was fired. These kinds of actions are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition to paying monetary damages, Chipotle is required to institute new sexual harassment reporting policies and procedures.

    Wimmer v. Suffolk County Police Department

    In this case, the plaintiff was a police officer who claimed he had been fired illegally after making complaints about other officers engaging in racist behavior towards the public. The plaintiff did not win his case because the court noted that he or other employees did not suffer discrimination with regards to the terms and conditions of their employment. To make the case successful, the plaintiff would have had to make complaints about racism towards himself or another employee of the police department, not the public, which is a third party. If he had done so, that would have been a protected activity, and the subsequent firing could have possibly been surmised as retaliatory in nature. 

  • What to do about workplace retaliation

    It's crucial to understand that employers are not allowed to retaliate under any circumstance if you choose to engage in protected activities, as discussed above. They cannot keep you from participating in or cooperating in investigations concerning company conduct, and they cannot make you lie to protect them. If you believe you've been the victim of employment retaliation, cases like these are what we excel at and we would like to talk to you. 

    You deserve to have your rights protected, and your voice heard. Our team of employment lawyers is ready to fight for you. No one should have to worry about workplace retaliation when standing up for their rights protected by federal laws. Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation. 

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