Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity.
In the United States, one of the leading reasons for lawsuits against employers is retaliation. In other words, a high number of employers who have been fired or disciplined have filed lawsuits claiming that these actions were taken because the employer wanted to retaliate or punish them for engaging in what is known as protected activity. So what qualifies as a protected activity?
There are many possible activities that could be considered protected under the law. Each law that creates employee protection essentially creates protected activity as well because asserting those rights under the law would be considered protected activity. For example, wage and hour laws create rights for employees to be paid fairly for hours worked. If an employee seeks to enforce those rights, such as by speaking to a wage and hour investigator or filing a complaint, that could be considered a protected activity. Similarly, federal laws that prohibit discrimination create certain rights for employees. If an employee attempts to assert rights under those anti-discrimination laws, such as by filing a complaint or even by acting as a witness in a case, that can be considered protected activity. Standing up for employee rights and against violations of the law may also be protected activity.
Of course, merely engaging in protected activity is not enough for a lawsuit based on retaliation; the employer must have taken action against the employee for engaging in that protected activity. This is known as an adverse employment action, which can be anything from being fired to getting a demotion or being formally disciplined. In some cases, an adverse employment action may also be something like having your work hours or location changed or denying an employee overtime. The key is that an adverse employment action occurred, and that this action was taken because of an employee’s participation in a protected activity. It may be difficult to prove that the adverse action was taken because of the protected activity, as employers rarely provide direct evidence of this (such as saying that you are being demoted because you were a witness for your coworker in his discrimination case). However, circumstantial evidence — like showing that the adverse action happened directly after a protected activity occurred — can often be used to make the case. An experienced employment law attorney can evaluate your case to determine if you have suffered an adverse employment action based on your participation in protected activity. The laws and rules can vary from state to state, so a knowledgeable lawyer would be in the best position to advise you if you have a basis for a lawsuit.
If you believe that you have been retaliated against for engaging in protected activity, contact PLBSH at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more than 50 years, our firm has helped people achieve justice, including those impacted by employers acting unfairly to penalize employees for speaking out or asserting their rights. We offer free initial consultations, and in many cases, we are able to work on a contingency fee basis; this means that you will not pay a fee unless we recover money for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you if you have been retaliated against for engaging in protected activity at your workplace.