What Is Employer Retaliation?

Over the decades, employees have gained important workplace protections. Starting with the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII of that same law, protected classes have been created to ensure the vast majority of employees may not be discriminated against on the basis of said protected classes. Some examples of protected classes are race, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. 
These laws protecting workers are essentially useless, though, if employers are allowed to retaliate against employees who make these claims against them. To ensure employees feel free to make employment discrimination claims they feel are valid, there are penalties for employers found to have retaliated against employees simply exercising their rights. 
What Does Employer Retaliation Look Like?
Think about your job and all the ways it could change if your employer simply wanted it to change. The manager could dock your pay, give you fewer hours, or require you to work less desirable shifts. What about your benefits? If your manager wanted to punish you for speaking up, your vacation days and other fringe benefits could disappear. Those are just some of the ways an employer could retaliate against you.
Making an employment discrimination claim is not the only trigger for potential retaliation. Sometimes, employees face retaliation for simply cooperating with investigators after someone else makes a claim. Furthermore, employers sometimes retaliate against employees without anyone having made a discrimination claim in the first place. 
If you are not sure whether or not your employer retaliated against you due to your involvement in discrimination allegations, contact an experienced attorney as soon as you are able
How Can You Prove Your Employer Retaliated?
The burden of proof required to show employer retaliation differs slightly based upon the investigating agency. Employees generally contact the EEOC (“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” a federal agency) for discrimination claims. A worker in Michigan, however, might also opt to contact the MDCR (Michigan Department of Civil Rights), and an employee in Illinois might contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights.  
Under EEOC rules, the employee must show that, more likely than not, the employer’s “materially adverse actions” were prompted by the employee’s “protected activity.” In simpler terms, the employee must show he or she has engaged in an EEOC process. Materially adverse means that a reasonable person would have been deterred from asserting his or her employment rights under the EEOC. 
Just because you made an employment discrimination claim or cooperated with investigators, though, does not mean you are protected from termination for any reason. Michigan, Illinois, and most other states have some form of at-will employment. This means that employers may fire employees for just about any reason, including having poor performance, engaging in criminal activities, or violating workplace rules. 
Even with the law on your side, it is normal to feel like the deck is stacked against you. After all, you need your job, and your manager might be consulting with in-house lawyers. Attorney Carla D. Aikens, an experienced employment law attorney who will vigorously pursue your claims, can be on your side. Schedule your free consultation with our team today.

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