Employment retaliation claims rise sharply in last decade

Employment retaliation claims have grown in comparison to other employment law claims in recent years. Retaliation claims are up for all industries, but particular fields that experience a strong regulatory environment, such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare, insurance and financial services are particularly susceptible to retaliation claims. This is largely due to the protections employees have been given for whistleblowing activities.

It is against the law to fire or otherwise punish an employee for bringing employment law violations to the attention of the employer or to authorities. Employers that do punish employees for bringing such claims are violating the law - which, in some cases, means the employer has violated the law twice: once for the original offense, and then again for attempting to cover it up through threats to employees or unlawful firings.

The numbers speak for themselves. Filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding retaliatory actions by employers have doubled since 2000. A significant percentage of all claims filed with the EEOC are retaliatory (41 percent).

Proving a retaliation claim<

In order to be successful in a retaliation claim, the worker must show that:

  • He or she engaged in a protected activity, such as taking steps to eliminate discrimination or reporting fraud, and
  • The employer knew of this activity, and subsequently took some action that harmed the employee, such as firing or demoting that person, and
  • There was a connection between the protected activity and the subsequent adverse action by the employer.

In addition, the employee must have had a reasonable, good faith belief that there was unlawful activity in the workplace. However, the employee does not need to be right in their belief. If an investigation reveals no wrongdoing, an employee can still recover on a retaliation claim.

Supreme Court increases standard of proof

In previous years, an employee who suffered retaliation as a predominant motive for being terminated or demoted could recover on a retaliation claim. However, last year the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for an employee to recover by creating a "but for" standard. Under this burden, and employee must prove that an employer's "predominate motive" for being fired or demoted was in retaliation for bringing attention to a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Because retaliation claims are up, this is an ever-changing area of the law that can depend on the regulatory environment, state and local law and the court in which the case is decided.

An experienced attorney can help

Employees who successfully win a retaliation lawsuit may obtain reinstatement to a position, back pay and other money damages. Employees in Arizona who feel as though an employer has illegally retaliated should contact the experienced employment law firm of The Zoldan Law Group to discuss their situation and legal options.