What is Workplace Retaliation?

At a glance

Workplace retaliation is when an employee takes a legally protected action and is met with unwarranted, illegal punishment from their employer.

Published on:
June 21, 2024

Understanding Workplace Rights

It's crucial for employees to be aware of their workplace rights. These rights, established by various acts, serve as a shield against workplace retaliation. Some of these acts include:

administering lie detector tests as a pre-employment screen or to employees on the job.

Employees have certain rights protected in the workplace, governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Understanding Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation is a serious issue. It occurs when an employee exercises a protected right, such as those mentioned above, and their employer unlawfully terminates or retaliates against them. This is not just a violation of the law, but also a breach of trust. Employers who engage in workplace retaliation can face severe consequences. 

When an employer wrongfully retaliates against an employee, the employee will likely file a formal complaint. This often leads to an investigation process to deduce whether the action was considered retaliation. If it was, employers are generally encouraged to remedy the situation for the affected employee, whether that means reinstating them, firing the manager who broke policy, or paying out lost wages.

When employers punish employees for any behavior considered a protected labor right, it is considered workplace retaliation. This can lead to an investigation, penalties, and necessary remedying actions.

Challenges and Considerations

Retaliation doesn't just affect the relationship between an employer and an affected employee. Still, it impacts employee morale as a whole, which can negatively impact employee turnover and talent attraction. 

Businesses must remain aware of what constitutes workplace retaliation and then work to avoid it. Labor laws can differ across industries, so organizations should stay current on regulations and how to prevent retaliation.

Preventing workplace retaliation is not just a legal obligation, but also a moral one. It's in the best interest of both businesses and their employees. Organizations that prioritize this can rest assured that they are abiding by the law, protecting their workers, and fostering a positive work environment. 

Workplace retaliation is an employer practice to be avoided at all costs, both due to its effects on current and prospective employees and the potential for costly penalties.

Best Practices for Small Businesses

Small businesses significantly benefit from avoiding retaliation because of the costly penalties and negative publicity that can accompany it. Consider hosting staff-wide training so that your workers know their rights and managers know how to avoid retaliation. Creating a transparent work environment where people are not afraid to ask questions or share their concerns is also ideal for employee retention. Finally, small businesses should stay up to date with current labor laws to ensure that they are not violating any.

Small businesses can work to avoid encountering workplace retaliation by mandating training to ensure employees are informed of their rights and by keeping up to date with the latest labor laws governing their industry.

Main takeaway

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for exercising their protected rights, such as those under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act. This illegal practice can lead to investigations and significant penalties for employers. Small businesses should educate staff about employee rights, foster a transparent work environment, and stay informed about relevant labor laws to prevent retaliation. Avoiding retaliation ensures legal compliance and helps maintain a positive workplace culture, employee morale, and employer brand.

About the author

Casey Pontrelli

Casey Pontrelli is a multi-talented professional with a background in content creation, branding, and social media marketing. Whether writing for a newspaper, eCommerce website, B2B startup, or a marketing agency, she has taken her strong background in journalism and turned her focus to SEO and content marketing. She’s written about everything from boutiques to cars to small businesses, and enjoys most when she knows her writing has had an impact. When she’s not writing up a storm or creating attention-grabbing social media posts, Casey enjoys hanging out with her partner and three cats, Eddy, Larry, and Marcus, going on long walks in the Green Belt, and, predictably, reading.

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