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Retaliation Is a Serious Problem in the Workplace

Too often, employees who are being harassed or discriminated against at work hesitate to make a complaint out of fear that a boss or colleagues will retaliate against them — only making the situation worse. They need their jobs, so they deal with the behavior — sometimes to the detriment of their own mental and physical health.

Those fears of retaliation aren’t unfounded. However, it’s also possible to take action against a company for retaliation. In fact, approximately 45 percent of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints involve retaliation.

Under EEOC regulations, it’s illegal to retaliate against people “because they filed a charge of discrimination,…complained to their employer or other covered entity about discrimination on the job, or because they participated in an employment discrimination proceeding….” Retaliation involves “any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”

Retaliation, like discrimination, can sometimes be difficult to prove unless an employer or colleague is foolish enough to put something in writing. Many are that foolish. As much as you might want to delete those mean, insulting or vulgar emails, texts or notes, keep them. If you take action against your employer, they may be crucial evidence. Likewise, thoroughly document every instance of this kind of behavior. It may be painful to write it down. Naturally, you’d just like to forget it. However, again, it can be important evidence if you take legal action.

If you believe that you’re the victim of retaliation, whether because you complained about discrimination or harassment, you refused someone’s advances, you pointed out wrongdoing in the workplace or some other reason, it’s important to know your legal rights.