Retaliation in the workplace is a widespread problem. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation constitutes the single most common complaint that federal workers bring against their employers. It is also a major issue in private industries.
Many people know that whistleblowers who call government or social attention to a company’s illegal practices have protections from retaliation under the law. If these protections didn’t exist, many people would fear to speak up when they witnessed companies doing things that put the public at risk because they can’t afford to lose their jobs.
Fewer people realize that whistleblowers are only one small group of people that could face retaliation from employers. Almost anyone who files complaints or stands up to their employer could face retaliation depending on their company’s culture and leadership.
Some companies resent workers’ compensation claims and accommodation requests
Most businesses have an obligation to carry workers’ compensation to protect their staff members from financial devastation if they get hurt while generating profit for the company. However, companies often resent that expense and may take it out on workers if their actions increase the cost of a workers’ compensation policy.
Despite protections for workers who need these benefits, some companies will make life difficult for or even fire workers who claim benefits after a workplace injury. Others will refuse to work with employees who need basic accommodations to return to a job after an injury or illness. A small fraction of companies might make those accommodations but quickly move to document minor infractions so that they can terminate the employee and cease providing those accommodations.
Some companies retaliate against those who make internal complaints
If you witness an act of racial discrimination or religious harassment in the workplace, you might inform human resources even though you weren’t the victim. Most companies have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment, at least one paper.
Corroborating witnesses, those who file complaints about inappropriate behavior, and the victims of workplace discrimination and harassment can face retaliation by the business when they report misbehavior.
Retaliation can involve firing someone directly. Other times, it might look like giving people terrible shifts, giving them fewer sales leads or demoting them and moving them to a different department even though they were a victim.
Anyone dealing with retaliatory behavior from their employer will want to learn more about their rights to prevent their employer’s actions from having a long-term impact on their career.