Tips for Handling Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation comes in many forms, including unfair scrutiny, false allegations, blacklisting, wrongful termination, and other adverse actions. It creates a toxic work environment and affects the employee physically and emotionally.

Though there are strict state and federal laws against retaliation in the workplace, it still happens and affects a large percentage of employees.

According to a press release by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is one of the most frequent claims of discrimination in the workplace. It was also stated that the cases of retaliation claims made up almost 45% of the total discrimination claims.

Most employees don’t know what to do when their employer retaliates against them. Thus, we’ve created this detailed guide on handling workplace retaliation.

Read on to learn what workplace retaliation is, visit some examples of retaliation, and discover what you can do if you are a victim of retaliation. We have also listed tips for employers to prevent retaliation.

Understanding Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace is when an employer or employee with a higher authority exerts their power over the employees with less power with an intent to impact their professional advancement or career negatively.

Retaliation usually occurs when the affected employee raises their voice against the unethical or unlawful practices of the company. This can either be in the form of a complaint to the human resources department or an outer committee such as the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Workplace retaliation can be subtle or blatant, and both types are punishable as per the law.

According to the EEOC, it is illegal and unlawful for an employer to punish employees or job candidates for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination and harassment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission further explains that asserting these rights is a protected activity. If any employer takes action against their employees because of the following reasons, it can qualify as retaliation in the workplace:

  • Being a witness or filing an EEO complaint, charge, or lawsuit.
  • Answering questions during an employer investigation about alleged harassment or discrimination.
  • Refusing sexual advances or intervening to protect others.
  • Requesting accommodation for a religious practice or a disability.
  • Asking co-workers or managers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.

Examples of Retaliation at the Workplace

Some of the most common signs of retaliation at work include demotion, wrongful termination, verbal abuse, poor performance reviews, constructive discharge, and more. To help you better understand what workplace retaliation looks like, we have compiled a list of recent retaliation lawsuits from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Example 1: A Manager Reports Age Bias

An information technology (IT) manager working at a university medical center was asked to recruit some young professionals for a post. An employee from the organization complained about this, noting that a 60-year-old highly qualified had been rejected for the post because of their age. The manager who filed the complaint was fired shortly after they complained.

This was a case of retaliation and discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the university settled the charge for $144,000.

Example 2: Two Ex-Edison Employees Complain About Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Two ex-Edison employees working at the South Bay office reported repeated sexual harassment and racial discrimination that created a toxic environment for the workers and were fired soon after.

The decision came out in favor of the employees, and a Los Angeles jury awarded $440 million in punitive damages.

Example 3: An Employee Complains About Harassment

An employee working as a cashier in a North Carolina firm complained about sexual harassment by the general manager and was fired within a few days.

This was a case of retaliation and sexual discrimination under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The company settled the case for $30,000.

Example 4: Employees Fired for Requesting Employment Benefits

Two employees working for an Arkansas manufacturer were fired because they requested overtime pay from the employer. The employer was committing several other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by deducting 30 minutes from employees’ time after giving them a 15-minute break.

Also, the employer altered the time cards to avoid paying employment benefits such as overtime pay. The case went under the U.S. Department of Labor, and the company was ordered to pay $111,895 in back wages for retaliation and overtime violations.

Do you suspect you are a victim of workplace retaliation? Has your employer taken action against you because you engaged in a legally protected activity? According to state and federal employment laws, retaliation in any form is illegal and you have the right to seek retribution. 

Connect with the professional employment lawyers at Hershey Law and fight for your rights. Our attorneys will tell you if a retaliation claim is worth pursuing and the potential benefits you can expect to receive. Call us at 310-929-2190 to discuss your case. 

What Can an Employer Be Liable for If Workplace Retaliation Occurs?

Employers are liable in workplace retaliation claims

Firing a worker or purposely creating a miserable working environment for them can turn out to be costly. The aforementioned examples show that workplace retaliation might even cost a company thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Here are some consequences of workplace retaliation:

Compensation for Lost Benefits

The court or jury may order the employer to compensate the victim for the lost benefits. For example, if an employee was demoted in retaliation, and the employee lost insurance benefits and needed medical care, the employer might have to pay for it.

Some other lost benefits may include overtime pay and loss of vacation days.

Double Back Wages

According to FLSA, affected employees can recover double “payback” damages for unpaid overtime wages. If the employers take action against the employee(s) in bad faith due to retaliation, the court can order them to pay double liquidated damages.

Damages for Emotional Distress and Other Harm

Besides liquidated damages, retaliation can also affect the mental health of the employee. The employer, if proven guilty, is liable to compensate for causing emotional distress and other harm to their employee.

The damages offered to the affected workers depend on the severity of the case and how strong the evidence is.

Reinstating an Employee

If the retaliation in the workplace caused the employee to leave the organization or were fired illegally, the employer might be ordered to reinstate the employee. Apart from getting the same job back, the employee can also get training for advancement and other remedies.


Several penalties can be imposed on employers when proven guilty of retaliating against their employees. The penalties or punitive damages can vary depending on the case.

Proving that your employer retaliated against you can be challenging, especially if you are going against a big name. At Hershey Law, our employment lawyers have years of experience with retaliation cases. They can help you file a charge, build a case, and prove your claim.

Call us at 310-929-2190 to discuss more details of your case and to hire the best retaliation lawyers in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the surrounding areas.

» More: Top 8 Signs of Retaliation in the Workplace

Tips to Handle Workplace Retaliation

Retaliation at the workplace, such as harassment, can make anyone uncomfortable, and even worse, it can make the victim feel unsafe. Moreover, negative employment actions in retaliation can cause financial strain, career stalling, and mental distress.

It is important to deal with retaliation in the workplace the right way. Here are some tips that will help you handle retaliation.

Understand Workplace Retaliation and Educate Yourself About Your Rights as an Employee

Whether it’s California or another state, there are several laws that offer protection to employees against retaliation. All employees should understand what retaliation is and how it can affect their employment.

Moreover, you should learn about your rights as an employee. Every state has different employment rights so you should ensure you are aware of the laws in your area. A simple internet search will help you learn about your employee rights. You can also contact a knowledegable attorney to discover more about your rights.

Check Your Employee Handbook Regarding Retaliation Policies

California, as a state, does not require employers to have an employee handbook. However, many employers still have one in place in order to list the company policies and employee rights.

If your employer has a handbook, go through it and learn everything about the retaliation policies. You should be aware of what action you can take after experiencing retaliation. The handbook will also tell you about the benefits you are entitled to receive in such scenarios and the right authority to contact.

Speak With Your Manager or HR

After going through the policies, you can consider speaking to your manager or the human resources department.

When speaking to HR, explain as much as you can about the retaliation, including the legally protected actions you took, when the retaliation started, the types of retaliation you experienced, and how it has affected your professional and personal life. Stay calm and stick to the facts to ensure that your claims make sense so that HR can take action based on the details submitted by you.

Retaliation should be reported immediately when it occurs. It is important that the employer knows about the retaliation to be legally responsible for it.

If there is a policy for the workers to follow when reporting retaliation or harassment, make sure you follow it as closely as possible. You should either file the report in writing or verbalize it during a meeting followed by a written summary.

Don’t forget to collect a copy of any written formal complaint as it’ll help you file a charge against the employer.

Keep Your Own Records

If a manager or a supervisor is retaliating against you, they may try to defend themselves by attacking your job performance. Keep copies of all records related to your job performance, such as performance evaluations and any letters or memos documenting your quality of work.

If your company permits, review your employee file and make copies of it (by legitimate means only). As with the documentation of your harassment, keep all records at your home and not on your company computer.

Gather Evidence and Document Changes in Your Employment

Proving the charge of retaliation is difficult so you need to gather adequate evidence. For example, describe in detail any retaliation incidents and list any potential witnesses in the initial complaint. Be sure to include any documentation that could support your claim.

It could be a termination letter, a new salary slip (that shows you are now paid less), a letter of demotion, or anything else that negatively affects your employment. It might also be emails, texts, memos, newsletters, witness statements, or anything else that demonstrates harassment or discrimination following your protected activity.

Conversations with your boss or employer that show you were retaliated against can also serve an important role. However, in a state like California, it is illegal to record someone’s conversation without their consent so make sure your employer is aware if you are taping.

Follow the Employer’s Procedures

Once you have gathered enough evidence, you are all set to file your complaint. Before contacting an outer authority like EEOC, you should follow the organization’s internal procedures. This way, you can be sure of the employer’s knowledge and lack of action when attempting to prove your case in court.

Ask for Help From Your Colleagues and Family

It can be difficult to go through retaliation and you’ll need the support of trusted colleagues, friends, and family members. Talking to others about the issues you are experiencing, such as harassment or discrimination, will give you a much-needed outlet and might offer more clarity on the issue.

If you suspect someone else you know is being retaliated against, you should offer support to the person while encouraging them to seek legal counsel.

Talk to an Attorney

If your place of employment does nothing to help the situation, a legal professional can offer you guidance in your next steps. Your lawyer can evaluate your situation and tell you if there is enough evidence for a workplace retaliation claim. Furthermore, an employment law attorney will help you file a complaint and build your case.

At Hershey Law, we understand the complexity of retaliation cases. We have a team of expert lawyers that have handled several employment cases to date and understand the process. From sending a legal notice to your employer and filing a complaint against them to gathering evidence, negotiating with them, and presenting your case in court, we will do everything we can on your behalf.

Speak to one of our professional retaliation attorneys at 310-929-2190 and get started with your case. 

How Employers Can Prevent Retaliation

Workplace retaliation doesn’t just affect the employee; it affects the employer as well. In several cases, it has been seen that employers, when proven guilty, were ordered to pay a hefty sum to the employees. Also, retaliation against one employee fosters fear among the entire workforce, affecting their productivity and creating a hostile work environment.

Here’s how employers can prevent retaliation in the first place.

  • Have Written Anti-Retaliation Policies

Developing written policies that cover guidelines against retaliation provides employees with the necessary information on how to proceed if they experience it. Furthermore, all of the policies and guidelines must be easily accessible to the employees. For example, employers can have them on their company’s website or in the handbook so they can go through the details at their convenience.

  • Provide Training to Employees and Managers

Train all employees and reporting managers on these guidelines and policies. Your employees should know what workplace retaliation looks like and why it may happen. Moreover, they should be able to identify workplace discrimination or harassment and how to report it. (Read: 12 Types of Discrimination in the Workplace)

Employees at the management level, such as supervisors and managers, need comprehensive training in avoiding retaliation. Employers should train upper-level employees about the legal ramifications of retaliation and how to appropriately handle employee complaints.

  • Create an Investigation Process for Workplace Retaliation Claims

There should be a standard approach to handling discrimination, harassment, or retaliation claims. This ensures that the claims are being reviewed without any bias. With an investigation process in place, the employees tend to have more trust in the company and are less likely to seek help from outer organizations.

All the employees and HR departments should be aware of the steps involved in the investigation.

  • Record Employee Performances

Recording employee performance is an essential part of preventing retaliation in the workplace. For example, if an employee has been performing well and then suddenly demoted or defamed, they might think that it’s due to retaliation.

When you have proper employee performance records that show how their performance declined over the course of time, it can add weight to the action taken by the organization.

  • Promise Confidentiality

Retaliation occurs when supervisors learn about actions taken by an employee (such as filing a harassment complaint) and react negatively.  As an employer, you should ensure that employees feel the information they share with HR remains confidential.

Reassure the employees that they’ll not be retaliated against if they file a complaint against the harasser or act as a whistleblower in a case.

  • Handle Accommodation Requests According to State and Federal Law

Every organization in the United States must have a reasonable accommodation policy that explains the process of accommodating employees’ religious practices or disabilities. The policies should outline everything, such as the accommodations that the company may provide. Ensure the accommodation policies do not violate the law but iterate that any accommodation requests should be handled on priority.

  • Encourage Employees to Come Forward

Most of the time, employees fail to report retaliation because they fear negative consequences from the managers. It is essential for employers to build a culture of trust to ensure that the workers are able to speak up when they feel they are being harassed or retaliated against by anyone in the organization.

It’ll not only help the employees feel safer in the company, but will also help in building a more ethical work culture.

Request a Free Consultation About Workplace Retaliation Concerns

Expert employment lawyers from Hershey Law can assist employees regarding retaliation claims. From helping you to preparing for the case and filing the claim to presenting your case in court, our lawyers will be with you every step of the way. We will fight aggressively to protect your interests and get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact us online or call us at 310-929-2190 for more information about how we can help the workers of Los Angeles, Orange County, and the surrounding areas.