Proving Workplace Retaliation

Under federal and state law, it is illegal for an employer to take adverse employment action against a worker because the worker exercised a right or engaged in a protected activity. If an employee is retaliated against for exercising a right or engaging in a legally protected activity, they can file a complaint or a civil lawsuit and recover monetary damages. Retaliation can come in many forms. Common forms of retaliation include firing or demoting a worker, reducing a worker’s salary, transferring a worker, changing a worker’s work schedule, and denying a worker a promotion or raise. 

Contact a qualified employment lawyer to discuss your legal options if an employer took adverse employment action against you because you exercised your right or engaged in a protected activity. 

What Activities Can Incite Workplace Retaliation?

As already mentioned, workplace retaliation happens when an employee takes an adverse employment action against an employee because the employee exercised a right or engaged in a legally protected activity. So, what protected activities can incite an employer to retaliate against an employee? The following are some protected activities;

  • Refusing to commit an illegal act despite an employer asking you to do so
  • Filing a complaint with, for example, the EEOC
  • Speaking out against sexual harassment or another form of employment discrimination
  • Speaking to your manager or supervisor about harassment or discrimination
  • Being a witness in a case against an employer
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Requesting or taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Whistleblowing against an employer 
  • Engaging in certain political activities
  • Asking for a disability or discrimination accommodation
  • Asking about salaries in an effort to discover pay discrimination

Proving Workplace Discrimination

In a workplace retaliation case, you need to prove three key elements. You first need to show that you engaged in a protected activity. After establishing that you engaged in a protected activity, you must show that you suffered an adverse employment action. Lastly, you need to prove causation, which entails proving that the protected activity you engaged in led to the adverse employment action.

Proving causation between the first two elements is usually the hard part. This is because there is rarely any direct evidence showing that an employer took a particular action to get back at an employee. If, for example, you were fired from your job for filing a workers’ compensation claim, it is highly likely the employer did not clearly state that you were fired because of that. Chances are, the employer covered up their real reason for firing you with another excuse. In workplace retaliation cases, plaintiffs usually have to depend on circumstantial evidence to prove that the protected activity they engaged in led to the adverse employment action.

The following are some ways you can prove causation in your workplace retaliation case;

  • By proving that there is close proximity between when you engaged in the protected activity and when the employer took the adverse action
  • By proving that there has been a sharp decline in performance evaluations ever since you engaged in the protected activity

A qualified employment lawyer can help you prove all three elements. 

Contact The Trabosh Law Firm

If you are a New Jersey employee and have been retaliated against in the workplace for exercising your legal right or engaging in a protected activity, contact The Trabosh Law Firm to schedule a consultation and discuss your case. 

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