Retaliation is when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee because he or she engaged in a legally-protected activity. “Adverse employment actions” include: termination; demotion; any action or pattern of actions that materially adversely affects the employee’s terms, conditions, or privileges of employment; or any conduct that is reasonably likely to impair a reasonable employee’s job performance or prospects for promotion. “Legally-protected activities” include: (1) exercising a right; (2) reporting suspected illegal conduct; and (3) refusing to participate in an illegal activity.
“Exercising a right” means doing anything the law gives employees the right to do. For example, the law gives disabled employees the right to request reasonable accommodations, and it gives employees with serious health conditions the right to request medical leave. When an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee because he or she exercised a right, that’s illegal retaliation.
“Reporting suspected illegal conduct” means an employee reporting to any government or law enforcement agency, or to any employee with authority over the employee, or to any employee who has the authority to investigate or take corrective action, any information that the employee has reasonable cause to believe constitutes a violation of law. For example, if an employee reasonably believes she is being sexually harassed by her co-worker and she reports that to her employer’s Human Resources department, her report of sexual harassment would be a legally-protected activity. If her employer were to then fire her for reporting the suspected sexual harassment to HR, that would be illegal retaliation.
“Refusing to engage in an illegal activity” means refusing to participate in any activity that would result in the violation of any federal or state law or regulation, or any local ordinance. For example, if the CEO of a company instructs an employee to file fraudulent tax returns for the company, and the employee refuses to do so, that employee’s refusal to engage in that illegal activity would be a legally-protected activity. If the CEO then fires that employee for refusing to participate in that illegal activity, that firing would be illegal retaliation.
If you have experienced illegal retaliation, we can take legal action to get you compensation for the damages you have suffered.