Fear of retaliation is a serious problem that hinders many workers from reporting discrimination, harassment or other unlawful behavior in the workplace. It can take many forms, such as termination, demotion or other forms of disciplinary action. But when an employer takes adverse action against an employee in this situation, workers should know that some legal options and strategies can help them fight this.
Legal options for retaliation
Filing a complaint with the appropriate agency is often the first step in seeking legal remedies for retaliation.
One option is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination laws. They can help investigate an employee’s claim. They may also file a lawsuit on behalf of the claimant if they find that their employer violated the law.
There are also state laws that can protect these employees. For example, Minnesota’s human rights commission, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, enforces state-level discrimination laws. According to this law, an employee may file a separate discrimination charge against their employer should they experience retaliation because of what they did.
Strategies for fighting back against retaliation
Meanwhile, there are simple strategies that any worker can use to fight back against retaliation in the workplace.
- Document incidents: Documenting any incidents of retaliation, including the date, time, nature of the reprisals and witnesses, can help establish a pattern of retaliation, which can be useful in a legal case. Even if an employee does not intend to file a lawsuit in the first place, keeping these records may help if the incidents keep happening, even to other workers, to the point that legal action becomes necessary.
- Be informed: Being aware of your legal rights as an employee is perhaps the best protection anyone can get. If one knows when their rights are being violated, they will be able to respond and act accordingly. They would know where and when to seek help if necessary. In Minnesota, several government agencies and advocacy groups resources can help employees be informed about their rights.
- Seek legal counsel: Another strategy is to reach out to an employment law attorney who can advise you on your legal options and represent you in court if necessary.
Fighting against retaliation may take a lot of courage from any worker. Knowing that there are legal options and strategies to protect them will give them the support they need in ensuring that their workplace is safe and fair for all employees.