Your Options When Your Employer Retaliates Against You

8 August 2017

Federal statutes and Ohio state laws make it illegal for employers to take “adverse employment actions” in retaliation against job applicants or employees who report discrimination or harassment. Examples of prohibited actions include refusing to hire, firing, denying raises and promotions, and assigning only difficult and dangerous tasks. When such retaliation can be proven, the mistreated person can get hired or rehired, receive lost wages, and receive payments for noneconomic damages. Particularly egregious acts of retaliation can also make an employer responsible for paying punitive damages, which are monetary penalties assessed in addition to any other damage awards to the victim.


Holding an employer accountable for retaliation requires, first, recognizing that illegal employment practices are occurring. The second step involves sharing concerns with supervisors or human resources staff. If retaliation continues or grows worse, the third step may involve collecting evidence and sharing it with a local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office or an equivalent state agency. The final stage will require negotiating a settlement, going through mediation or arbitration, or filing a civil lawsuit.


Consulting with an experienced Columbus Ohio employment retaliation lawyer before initiating what can be a long and emotionally difficult process often makes sense. The only real way to succeed with a retaliation complaint is to work closely with a legal ally and representative, but understanding early whether a strong case can be made will save time, expense, and stress.


What Constitutes Employment Retaliation?


No employer can allow any of its supervisors, managers, or workers to discriminate against or harass others because of the victim’s race, sex, age, religion, pregnancy, national origin, or military service/veteran status. Any person who witnesses or experiences discrimination or harassment for such reasons has an undeniable right to report the problem and to ask that it be resolved. The EEOC calls doing those things “engaging in protected activity” and lists examples as:


  • Making a report to a supervisor
  • Testifying as a witness during an investigation or hearing
  • Resisting pressure to date or have sex
  • Asking to have a religious practice or disability accommodated
  • Refusing orders to discriminate against or harass a co-worker
  • Doing research aimed at uncovering unequal pay or benefits


When a termination, demotion, or reassignment follows engaging in such protected activity, the employer may be retaliating. One clue that retaliation is occurring is when the adverse employment action comes within hours or days of the protected activity.


When May It Be Time to Start Working on a Lawsuit?


As noted above, a job applicant or employee who suspects retaliation should always bring the concern to the attention of a trusted manager, supervisor, or HR rep. It is usually wise to go to someone other than the person who appears to be retaliating.


Taking a retaliation complaint to the EEOC or another government agency may be justified when


  • The complaint does not get investigated,
  • Investigation findings do not reflect at all what happened,
  • The explanation for why the employment action was taken does not make sense, or
  • A solution is proposed but the mistreatment continues.


This is definitely the time to speak with a Columbus employment discrimination attorney if one has not become involved earlier. Outside officials will want documentation of retaliatory actions, and a lawyer will be able to offer sound advice on how to legally and thoroughly gather evidence that will hold up in court. An attorney will also be able to help with filing the necessary paperwork with the government and courts, conducting interviews with witnesses and employer representatives, and representing the person making the complaint during hearings.


If you need to speak with an employment retaliation lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, reach out to the Calig Law Firm to schedule a free, confidential consultation. Call us at (614) 252-2300 or use this online contact form.


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