Proving Retaliation in the Workplace | Mann & Elias
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Proving Retaliation in the Workplace


Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Most employers understand this basic principle and work to enforce it. Unfortunately, there are also too many companies that do not. They allow their people to serve under abusive managers and have few safeguards in place to respect the rights and preserve the well-being of their people.

The Perils of Discrimination and Harassment

You were hired for your skills, expertise, and experience. When you come to work, you just want to do your job. It is not your desire to file complaints or throw the office into chaos and drama. But if you are being racially discriminated against or sexually harassed, you must do something about it. Working under such conditions is not only unfair, it is nearly impossible. You cannot do your job if your contributions are constantly marginalized because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin. Nor can you be productive if you are being stalked by an office sexual predator.

Your company should have published guidelines on the actions you should take if you are discriminated against or harassed. You should follow those guidelines in responding to the perpetrator. In many instances, the rules call for the submission of a formal complaint against the person who has engaged in the wrongdoing. This will then prompt your human resources department to investigate. The person will be interviewed and their actions toward you and other employees scrutinized. If you have offered direct evidence of their behavior and you have been backed up by corroborating evidence from other sources, it could lead to a range of punishments for the person who has committed these acts.

Although you may ultimately be vindicated, you may face peril during the investigation and afterward. The person being investigated will probably know that it was you who turned them in, and they may launch acts of reprisal and retaliation against you. You can also be retaliated against by others who are senior to you and friendly with the accused. If your case involves extreme and systematic acts of discrimination and harassment, the company may decide that the best way to distance itself from the ordeal is to fire you and the person who committed the misdeeds. This also constitutes an act of retaliation against you.

You Are Protected

If you complain about discrimination or harassment, you are legally protected from retaliation. If your employer demotes you or terminates your employment after your complaint, then you can file a lawsuit against them. In the lawsuit, you will need to prove three things:

  • That you engaged in protected activity
  • That your employer acted against you because of it
  • That there is a causal link between your complaint and their action against you

There are two types of protected activity for those who have been discriminated against or harassed:

  1. OppositionIt is your right to oppose any act of harassment or discrimination. You are entitled to raise an objection directly to the person who has committed the act or file a complaint through official channels. You are entitled to stand up for yourself and oppose the abuse without fear or retaliation. Any time you communicate to your employer that you or a colleague has been subjected to harassment or discrimination you are protected from retaliation.
  2. ParticipationParticipation in a company or independent agency investigation into discrimination or harassment is also a protected activity.

How to Prove Retaliation

Any moves on the part of your employer that are materially adverse to you can be considered proof of retaliation. Materially adverse actions can include demotion, termination, salary reduction, negative evaluations, forced transfer, change in duties, change in shift, and change in the terms and condition of your employment.

Demonstrating adverse action is not enough to prove retaliation. You must prove that the actions taken against you came as a result of your complaint against the company. This can be difficult to do. Employers can couch their retaliation against you in a seemingly benign business decision. The best way to link the negative actions taken against you to the complaint you filed is to engage the services of a workplace lawyer.

Your Lawyer Will Help You Make the Connection

Lawyers well-versed in retaliation cases are experts in taking legal action against employers. The Los Angeles workplace lawyer you hire will sit down with you and review the details of your case. They will look at all the evidence that has been accumulated in the case and will also launch their own investigation into the company. Lawyers have the investigative resources to determine the people behind your firing, demotion, or other retaliatory action.

The unjust retaliation attorney in Los Angeles you hire will build your case based on the following factors:

  • Timing: an adverse action that comes right after your employee complaint makes retaliation the more likely explanation
  • Knowledge: your lawyer will prove that person who initiated the adverse action knew about the complaint
  • Lack of other explanation: your attorney will show that there is no other basis for the adverse action or that the stated reason for it does not make sense

Proving a case of retaliation is difficult but not impossible. However, you should not attempt to do it on your own. In most instances, the people who organized the retaliation against you left some loose ends that the attorney you hired will find and use against them.

If you have been illegally retaliated against by an employer at work, it can make your life miserable. You should now allow yourself to be insulted, degraded, and toyed with. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best response to this sort of outrage.

If it has happened to you, a lawyer can help protect your legal rights, and they will help you negotiate a resolution with your employer. Hiring a lawyer is the best move to make if you find yourself in such a situation.


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