As an ethical business professional, you feel compelled to speak up when you notice something wrong. Perhaps you have realized that there is a kickback system in place that violates certain laws or puts the company at risk. Maybe you’ve endured misconduct from a supervisor or co-worker and have asked human resources to intervene because the workplace feels unsafe to you.
Whether you make a report within the company about harassment or notify an external regulatory agency about company misconduct, you should not have to worry about your employer punishing you. A business taking punitive action against an employee for protected behavior like acting as a whistleblower is retaliation.
While federal law does prohibit employer retaliation, it does affect the lives of whistleblowers and those who speak up about workplace misconduct. What does employer retaliation often involve?
A questionably-timed termination
If your employer suddenly terminates you with little warning right after you speak up about an issue, there is a strong chance that the timing is not a coincidence. Some companies will just try to eliminate a worker who pushes back about harassment in the workplace or illegal activities conducted by co-workers. Even if you are an at-will employee, such a termination as punishment for speaking up is illegal retaliation.
Progressive discipline or poor performance reviews
Many companies are too smart to summarily terminate someone for asserting their employment rights. Instead, they will try to fabricate a paper trail that justifies the firing. If your employer has suddenly taken issue with your job performance or started enforcing rules but they ignore elsewhere to write you up, you may be the victim of retaliation, and a wrongful termination could be in the immediate future.
Changes in the job or the company’s treatment of you
If you reported harassment, the company might need to separate you from another worker. The person engaging in misconduct should be the one moved to a different department or shift, not the person making a complaint. If your employer transfers you to a different shift, demotes you, cuts your pay or reduces your hours, those could all be forms of retaliation.
Documenting these issues as they arise can help you hold your employer accountable for their violation of employment laws in their retaliatory treatment of you.