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What constitutes workplace retaliation?

As a "whistleblower," or someone that calls attention to illegal actions or wrongdoings by a company, individual or place of business, you have certain protections at the state and federal levels. While you have a right to a work environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, you are also protected in your right to alert the proper authorities about illicit activities without fearing retaliation when you clock in.

Protected rights

To be protected against retaliation, the retaliatory response must come on the heels of you exercising what is known as a "protected right." Protected rights include blowing the whistle about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, and they may also involve asking that special accommodations be made for you because of a disability. Refusing to follow through with the order of a superior because you know following the order would be breaking the law is another example of a protected right, as is answering questions about your employer truthfully if that employer becomes part of a larger investigation.

Common forms of workplace retaliation

Each allegation of workplace retaliation is different, and what constitutes retaliation in one instance may not necessarily do the same for another. That being said, it may be considered workplace retaliation if you experience any of the following after exercising a protected right:

A firing or demotion

If you are let go from your company after blowing the whistle about wrongdoing, this may be considered retaliation in the eyes of the law. A demotion or transfer to a less desirable or lucrative positon may, too, constitute workplace retaliation.

Verbal or physical abuse

If you find that you are subjected to abuse in the workplace because of your decision to exercise a legally protected right, this may be seen as retaliation. This is true regardless of whether the abuse you suffer is verbal or physical in nature.

An intentionally unpleasant work environment

Your employees and coworkers are also legally barred from trying to make your job more difficult or unpleasant for you because you spoke up about wrongdoings in the workplace. Some examples of this type of retaliation might include switching your schedule to include unfavorable shifts or making it harder for you to maintain a job while juggling existing familial responsibilities.

Ultimately, your level of workplace protection tends to vary based on factors such as the type of company you work for and how many other people are employed there. To discuss a specific instance of workplace retaliation, you may want to get in touch with an attorney.

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