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Know how to recognize workplace retaliation

Did you recently file a report with human resources or your supervisor complaining of sexual harassment on the job? Maybe you reported your boss for illegal practices. Perhaps you refused to condone unethical procedures or falsify company records. Chances are, if the behavior you complained about is company-wide, your whistleblowing did not go over well.

What you are experiencing now may be retaliation. Instances of retaliation are apparently increasing in Arizona and across the country. In fact, 45 percent of the complaints the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives are from workers reporting retaliation, and these types of complaints have surpassed those regarding race discrimination.

What does retaliation look like?

In most cases, retaliation comes from a supervisor. Investigators say that between 50 and 70 percent of complaints involve a manager illegally penalizing a worker for whistleblowing. The most common retaliatory acts by managers include:

  • The manager gives a negative evaluation.
  • The employee receives undesirable assignments or is transferred to a department with little chance of advancement.
  • The supervisor harasses the employee or encourages coworkers to treat the employee with disdain.
  • The employee is demoted.
  • The manager excludes the employee from important meetings, drops the employee's name from crucial emails, or keeps vital information from the employee to hamper his or her success.
  • The employee is wrongfully terminated.

Of course, most managers or supervisors know that it is illegal to retaliate against a worker for whistleblowing, so they will likely try to make it appear as if the actions are not retaliatory. For example, a series of bad evaluations may seem to justify firing you. If your boss excludes you from meetings, you may not be able to complete your assignments, resulting in demotion or termination.

Protecting yourself

Retaliation can take many forms, including bullying. If your employer or co-workers demean, threaten or insult you, in person or through email, they are likely creating a hostile environment for you. Many who have experienced retaliation at work attest to the emotional damage it does. Having to face intimidation and mistreatment day after day takes its toll.

If this has happened to you, be sure to save any bullying emails and keep a log of incidents of mistreatment. Also, contact an employment law attorney to learn about your full range of options.

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