Perhaps for some time you have had your suspicions that something at work was not right. Maybe you thought someone on the job was experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination, or you may have felt that a co-worker or supervisor was committing fraud or other illegal acts. These actions may have interfered with your ability to make a living, or they may simply have made your conscience feel uneasy.
No matter the case, you had the right to report your suspicions to the proper agents, whether to the police or other authorities, so the matter could receive a complete investigation. It was a risk you took, and you may now be paying the consequences if your boss is retaliating against you.
Retaliation is any negative action your employer takes against you in response to you performing a protected activity. Protected activities are those that the Equal Employment Opportunity laws defend as your rights, such as reporting crimes or unethical behavior, or participating in an EEO investigation. Therefore, if you did not instigate an investigation but merely agreed to an interview with authorities or testified as a witness against your employer, the EEO laws still protect you from retaliation. Common ways an employer may retaliate include the following:
- Verbally abusing or threatening you
- Transferring you to a position, location or schedule that creates a hardship for you
- Becoming more critical of your work, including lowering your evaluation scores
- Demoting you, cutting your pay or removing your benefits
- Blocking your access to methods of seeking help with your complaints of retaliation
- Threatening or taking action against your family in some way
- Spreading false rumors about you, including through the media
- Terminating your employment
To prove you are a victim of retaliation in the workplace, you must show that you participated in some activity protected by the EEOC, that your employer took negative action against you that caused you material harm and not just an inconvenience, and that the materially negative action resulted from your protected activity. In other words, if your employer’s actions make you reconsider participating in the protected activity, it is likely retaliatory.
However, proving retaliation is challenging, and there are many nuances to handle. You would be wise to reach out for assistance from a California attorney who has experience successfully representing employees facing retaliatory action after exercising their rights under EEO laws.