Retaliation in the Workplace

They say he who laughs last one is the hardest. That may be why the employer has in mind when the employer seeks to punish an employee who has complained about discrimination. However, the law protects employees who complain discrimination. In sum, the employer may not retaliate against an employee for inserting his or her rights under the law. In fact, if retaliation was not protected, it would make many of the employment laws toothless.

How does the law protect me?

Both federal and state laws prohibit retaliating against employees who have "engaged in protected activity." There is a difference between "unethical retaliation" and "illegal retaliation." Employers will retaliate against employees, but that retaliation is merely unethical, not illegal. If you think you have experienced illegal retaliation, contact me, your Houston employment attorney.

What constitutes retaliation?

To have a retaliation claim, the employee needs to meet the following:

  1. The employee engaged in protected activity;
  2. The employer took an "adverse employment action" against the employee; and
  3. The protected activity caused the adverse employment action.
Generally, only the last point, number 3, will be in contention. Though the law can be complicated as to what constitute or does not constitute "protected activity." Below, I have given some examples of protected activity. Typically, an adverse action is also apparent, which I also discuss below.

What is "protected activity?"

In the most basic sense, "protected activity means" the employee engaged in some action that sought to address an employment practice that is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or other employment laws.

Common examples of protected activity include:

  • Complaining about discrimination -- this includes complaining on someone else's behalf;
  • Filing a complaint with the EEEOC
  • Refusing to participate in discrimination;
  • Requesting an accommodation (for disability or religious purposes).
  • Participating in an investigation into discriminatory practices; and
  • Turning down sexual advances.
These are examples highlight what retaliation looks like in the sense of discrimination in the work place. If you have experienced retaliation as it relates to leave, wage claims, or whistleblower claims follow those links to read more.

What is an adverse employment action?

An adverse employment action is a negative action the employer takes against an employee. It may include some of the following:

  • Termination / wrongful termination;
  • Demotion;
  • Reduction in pay;
  • Reduction in hours;
  • Assigning more, undesirable work; and
  • Transferring to a lesser position

Contact me a Houston workplace retaliation lawyer.

Like many discrimination claims, employees have a short time to make their claims to the EEOC or Texas Workforce Commission. Non-federal government employees typically have 180 or 300 days to make their claims, and federal employees have a shorter timeframe of 45 days to assert their claims. Contact me, your Texas wrongful termination lawyer to schedule a consultation.