Workplace Retaliation: What Are Your Rights?
June 5, 2019
Because of stories in the news highlighting employment discrimination lawsuits, many people know that there are laws prohibiting employers from taking an adverse action against an employee or from disregarding an otherwise qualified job candidate’s application because of the employee’s or job candidate’s sex, age, gender, religion, color, nationality, or disability. However, because these lawsuits are typically less publicized, most people do not know that the same laws prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee because the employee filed an employment discrimination claim against the employer or participated on behalf of the plaintiff in an employment discrimination lawsuit. If this occurs, employees may have actionable workplace retaliation claims against their employers. This article explains what rights people have when they are retaliated against by their employers in Pennsylvania.
Workplace Retaliation Explained
Stated simply, retaliation is any adverse action that an employer takes against an employee because of the employee’s involvement in an employment discrimination lawsuit lodged against the employer. The most blatant form of retaliation is the firing of an employee for their involvement in the discrimination lawsuit.
However, other actions that employers take can also be considered retaliation. These other actions include:
- Demoting employees
- Reducing their pay
- Cutting their hours
- Changing their work schedule entirely
- Giving them poor performance reviews
- Issuing them warnings or writing them up for things that the employee did not do
- Failing to give them raises
- Failing to promote them
- Transferring them to a less desirable work location
- Rejecting employees’ requests to transfer to a more desirable work location
The Laws that Protect Against Workplace Retaliation
There are several federal laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against their employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing employment discrimination lawsuits or participating in an employment discrimination lawsuit lodged against the employer. The Fair Labor Standards Act specifically prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that report wage and hour violations. The Family and Medical Leave (“FMLA”) Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who take family and medical leave provided under the Act.
In addition to federal laws, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that participate in or filing employment discrimination complaints or lawsuits. This Act is most similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it is broader in that is protects individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and those employees who file or participate in the investigation of said complaints.
Both federal and state law protects employees from retaliation if they file or participate in employment discrimination claims against employers even if they are untrue. However, if the claims were made despite the fact that the employee knew it was untrue, federal and state law does not protect that employee from retaliation if an adverse employment action is taken against him or her.
What Can a Person Who Experiences Workplace Retaliation Do?
If you believe that you have suffered workplace retaliation due to an adverse employment action that was taken against you, you should first speak with your employer’s human resources department to get an explanation for the action. Your employer may have a valid, non-retaliatory reason for taking the action. However, if you believe the reasoning you receive is pretext and that the action was taken to retaliate against you, you can file what is called a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the federal administrative agency that reviews and handles claims of employment discrimination and workplace retaliation, as well as the EEOC’s state counterpart, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). In Pennsylvania, you can duly file a charge with the EEOC and the PHRC so that both agencies may review your claim. If one or both find the claim has merit, one of the agencies will initiate a lawsuit on your behalf for the retaliation you experienced. If successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, even if one or both agencies, find that your retaliation claim lacks merit, the agency will provide you with a right to sue letter, which allows you to initiate a retaliation lawsuit is state or federal court. Because retaliation claims often involve making complex legal argument and finding supporting evidence, it is prudent to talk to an experienced employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible after you experience workplace retaliation.
Contact the Experienced Pittsburgh Employment Law Attorneys About Your Workplace Retaliation Claim Today
Have you recently experienced an adverse employment action out of the blue that you believe is workplace retaliation. If so, the attorneys at Quinn Logue LLC may be able to help you in getting the employment litigation matter resolved. Contact us today by filling out our online scheduling form or by calling us at (412) 765-3800. We have an office conveniently located at 200 First Avenue, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.